January 4, 2011

Intellectual Property Rights

Reading up on how Rep. Howard Berman (D-Disney) works to extend copyrights (while many others, such as Lawrence Lessig, consider copyright laws the work of the devil), I was reminded that I've never been persuaded why I should much care pro or con about the copyright controversy. Every time I try to think it through, it all seems to come out a wash.

For example, Matthew Yglesias today laments all the books and movies from 1954, such as Lord of the Flies, Horton Hears a Who, and On the Waterfront, that would have entered public domain these days if the old 56 year copyright had been maintained.

Today, copyright extends for 70 years after the date of the author's death. This length seems pretty absurd, and it creates a tiny gentry of people who have inherited lucrative copyrights. For example, Hugh Grant's selfish character in About a Boy has never bothered to work because his father composed the 1950s novelty Christmas song Santa's Supersonic Sleigh.

But, I have a hard time seeing how length of copyright does much, pro or con, for the quality of entertainment.

I went to the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain and was underwhelmed by their vision of a utopia in which Creature from the Black Lagoon enters public domain this year:
Think of the movies from 1954 that would have become available this year. You could have showed clips from them. You could have showed all of them. You could have spliced and remixed and made documentaries about them. (You could have been a contender!)

Or you could mash up your favorite movies from 1954 and release Creature from the Waterfront. But it all sounds pretty tedious.

It seems to me that a lot of the anti-copyright enthusiasts are stuck in an adolescent fan-boy stage where you just want to remake your favorites and you don't feel worthy of making up your own stuff. 

I'm reminded of this story that Keith Richards likes to tell about how the early Rolling Stones just wanted to perform cover versions of American songs, but manager Andrew Oldham kept telling them about how much money there was in writing original songs. So, he locked Mick and Keith in a kitchen until they'd written a song. After they'd eaten all the food in the kitchen, they decided they might as well try writing a song. So they came up with "As Tears Go By."

Warning: not all of Keith Richards' memories are wholly reliable.

107 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of old books, newspaper and magazine articles that are available because copyright has expired. There are a lot of great authors from the 20's 30's 40's and 50's that I don't get to see because of copyright extension.

Extended copyright kills the vast out-of-print corpus to make a piddling amount of money selling the few books still in print from 90 years ago.

LemmusLemmus said...

Are you sure it's "Santa's Supersonic Sleigh"? Google search for "santa's supersonic sleigh" "about a boy": 3 hits, including this page and another one written by you. Search for "santa's super sleigh" "about a boy": 5700 hits.

Le Sigh said...

I was reminded that I've never been persuaded why I should much care pro or con about the copyright controversy.

Those who can't create original content don't usually care about copyright issues. ;-)

bjdibble said...

If one of these billionaires who waste so much money on things like the Land Conservancy would spend just a few million to buy out the Jstor catalog and make it public domain, that would be great. It's really ridiculous how we spend billions annually on universities to create knowledge for the public good and then THE PUBLIC HAS NO ACCESS TO IT.

MQ said...

The line between 'creating original content' and 'appropriating past content' is fuzzier than people think. As the saying goes: "good artists borrow, great artists steal". A lot of art is based on doing a new take on someone elses work. Copyright is a heavy-handed government intrusion into individual freedom to explore of our cultural heritage, all in the name of protecting individual freedom to create. Some degreee of protection is good, but it carries heavy costs and collapses of its own weight pretty quickly.

The 70 year copyright is pretty obscene. Maybe Steve would get it better if you listed to him all the great HBD-related anthropologists he couldn't read for free now because of it.

Anonymous said...

People want to steal and not get in trouble.

There, copyright debated.

Henry Canaday said...

Some decades ago a small theater I worked with did an international tour of Tennessee Williams’s “The Glass Menagerie.” The play was still under copyright protection, and we had not obtained permission. We had attempted to get it, but the copyright holders had dragged out negotiations until after we had invested money in the airfares and other expenses of the tour, so went ahead and did it anyway. We received great reviews in London, very rare for an all-American production, but we were still a bit of a bootleg enterprise.

This resulted in the funniest letter I have ever received from a lawyer. The attorney’s reproving missive began:

“The Tennessee Williams estate is in an uproar…”

I tried to visualize an estate being in an uproar. The best I could come up with was the famous line about Lenny Bruce: “Live, Lenny was problem. Dead, he’s a property.”

josh said...

Somebody should inform Matt Y that books actually existed before 1950.

master_of_americans said...

You remember that old T.S. Eliot quote, right? "Mediocre poets borrow, great poets steal." We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

none of the above said...

I gather this is a very big issue in book publishing, where it's common to simply not be able to reprint some work because the transaction cost (find the eventual owners of the rights and negotiate with them) is too high.

I doubt long copyright terms have much effect on incentives to creators, for time value of money reasons. The value of a payment 70 years in the future is relatively tiny. (The intuition to use here is this: I can either promise you $X in 70 years, or I can give you some much smaller amount, $Y, today, that you can put in the bank for 70 years and it will grow to $X from interest. A $30 payment 70 years from now is worth about $1 today, assuming 5% interest.)

Copyright extension seems to me a perfect example of special interest politics. A few companies really care about this issue, and so they buy themselves some changes in the law.

Formerly.JP98 said...

It seems to me that a lot of the anti-copyright enthusiasts are stuck in an adolescent fan-boy stage where you just want to remake your favorites and you don't feel worthy of making up your own stuff.

I have the same impression. Tacking three score years and ten onto the creator's lifetime seems excessive, but I don't see much downside to giving the heirs 25 years or so.

Anonymous said...

But, I have a hard time seeing how length of copyright does much, pro or con, for the quality of entertainment.

You're missing the point. It's not about entertainment.

It seems to me that a lot of the anti-copyright enthusiasts are stuck in an adolescent fan-boy stage where you just want to remake your favorites and you don't feel worthy of making up your own stuff.

Most creators pass through that stage, as your own example of the Rolling Stones indicates. It's vitally important for their development. Ever increasing "intellectual property rights" threaten the process.

Ole Johansen said...

I'm just finished reading Keith Richards book "Life",and I'm a bit courious about your warning,I guess it's about what he writes in this,his autobiography?
Is there any chance you could write some more about it?
It's a very interesting period with some enourmously shift in our culture and especially the music scene.
And it was my grown up years also.

The dude said...

A simpler cure might be to adopt elements of patent law. Patents have a potential life of 20 years. The patent holder must pay a "maintenance fee" every 1-5 years (depending upon the country) to keep the patent alive. When the maintenance fee is not paid the patent expires. Applied to copyrights, yhis would be(1) a potential source of income for the governnment, and (2) a cure for the "orphan works" problem.

Paul Mendez said...

Obsession over monetizing IP rights is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation in the US right now.

In the US, university researcher makes a discovery & then university lawyers fight with corporate lawyers on how much the discovery is worth, who is liable if discovery is harmful, who owns rights to spinoffs, etc., etc.,

Many years and many dollars later, MAYBE the discovery makes it to market

In China, (state run) university makes a discovery and hands it to (state run) company which immediately goes to market.

Kylie said...

"Those who can't create original content don't usually care about copyright issues."

Now that we've got the Asian take on why copyrights aren't important, can we all move on?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure "mashups" are really the issue (though now that you mention it, why shouldn't I write a story about Mickey Mouse - why can't he *ever* enter folklore or shared culture?).

Plain old use is the main issue - why can't someone just cheaply reprint a book who's author is long dead?

Anonymous said...

@LeSigh: I doubt that Steve would care much about whether his heirs would enjoy the fruits of his creativity for the next 60 years or century.

The negative consequences of indefinite copyright extension are:

1. Old works being lost, because it is nearly impossible to de-snarl their copyright status, so there is no incentive to re-edit, digitize, etc. music, movies, etc. from early in the 20th century. Also impossible to reprint some books where the copyright holders cannot be found.

2. Some moviemakers can't make movies from books without the consent of the author's heirs. Anyone can make a new Robin Hood or Dracula or Tarzan movie, but there is only one franchise holder for Narnia, or James Bond, or Lord of the Rings, or Superman or Spider-Man.

The big advantage to perpetual copyright comes to Disney, which can continue to mint money off of their Princess franchises indefinitely, and to a lesser extent to Warner Brothers and other cartoon character and comic book merchandising companies.

--Anonymous Coward

David said...

conected = connected, apologies

beowulf said...

"Extended copyright kills the vast out-of-print corpus to make a piddling amount of money selling the few books still in print from 90 years ago."

That's a good point, if a book or journal is out of print, what is lost by allowing noncommercial access? I mean, if the copyright owner thought there was a market for it, it'd still be in print.

If its for a commercial use-- someone reads a story decides to make a movie about it-- great the copyright owner should get a paid. But its overkill and tremendous waste of human knowledge to lock up everything out of print until 95 years, or whatever its up to now, have elapsed.

TrashTokkinWifTrolls said...

It's more of a problem in theory than in practice. Copyrights and trademarks are mainly important by association with the other big domain of intellectual property rights - patents. They all get cheerfully extended by a pro-capitalist, anti-free-market Congress which loves rent-seeking behavior

After I take over, business will be begging for short patents because the feds will be prohibited from buying patent medicine. Naw just kidding.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"But, I have a hard time seeing how length of copyright does much, pro or con, for the quality of entertainment."

What matters is that your congressmen are working overtime to defend the financial interests of one group of people (in Berman's case not merely his constituents and campaign donors but, disproportionately, his co-ethnics) against your own.

Thanks to Hollywood's corrupting of the political process, I long ago lost any feelings of guilt about illegally copying music and movies. It would be hard to justify paying, anyway, because no matter how I feel or act, the resale value of a $15 DVD or CD is now basically $0.

It's absurd that copyright length should be tied to a creator's lifespan. A guy writes a song, then croaks, and his song gets a 70 year copyright, but someone like Irving Berlin writes a song at 20, lives to 90, so his song gets 140 years?

I also fail to understand why Donald Duck gets a century or so of copyright protection while a lifesaving drug only gets ~17 years of patent protection. We seem to have turned the Constitution's mention of protecting the 'useful arts and sciences' on its head. Perhaps if Merck owned a few more newspapers and television networks they'd get a better deal from Congress.

But then plenty of foreign countries have made it clear that anyone who invents a truly important new medicine, like a cure for AIDs, will get shafted financially, which is why most pharm companies are spending more of their R&D working up new treatments for incontinence and allergies.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, interested only in high culture? The Center also mentioned On the Waterfront, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder (though some might regard that a pedestrian who-dunnit effort, too). The point isn't "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (which is actually very campy) but that everything from our culture is locked down ... high art (Waiting for Godot), middle art (Lord of the Rings), and low art (Creature). Since historically our culture has always relied to some extent on referencing and borrowing from previously created materials (think of our national anthem, if nothing else ... though you could also try our legal system), this locking up of all culture is in sum negative. Even your example of The Rolling Stones avoids the fact that their 'original' work is often based on other works and genres.

What we really need to decide is what is a fair balance between the rights the creator should enjoy as a GOVERNMENT allowed monopoly (if the copyright laws didn't exist, I'm sure that corporations would not hesitate to copy widely) and the rights that the public should expect in exchange for those exclusive rights.

Anonymous said...

Le Sigh said,
Those who can't create original content don't usually care about copyright issues. ;-)

Steve? Steve Sailer??!!
Are you serious or do you just have a dry sense of humor (not that there's anything wrong with that)?

Anonymous said...

If you want to truly appreciate the illogic of our current intellectual property law, compare Disney with a pharmaceutical company. Disney has successfully lobbied to have its copyright extended (I think on multiple occassions), whereas drug developers get ten years of patent protection which begins tolling from the moment that the patent is granted (not when the drug is first sold). So...draw a cartoon mouse and you will have your intellectual property protected for what looks like eternity. But develop a lifesaving drug and you have a small window of opportunity in which to recoup your costs and make a profit. Putting aside what message this sends about what we value as a society, the treatment of drug patents is a large contributor to the behavior from Big Pharma that we've all come to despise: seeming arbitrary pricing, minor tweaks to formulations to extend patent life, and some of the worst rent-seeking behavior in a D.C. filled with rent seekers.

I don't know what the best treatment of IP would be, but I'm pretty sure our current system is almost exactly the opposite.

SN

robert61 said...

The bigger issue is not making felons out of tens of millions of file sharers. As long as there's no way of stopping digital file sharing, current copyright laws create a world of two-track justice, with no penalties for those who know how to cover their tracks and terrible random judgments against a minute percentage of those who don't. Anarcho-tyranny anyone?

Is it technically possible to stop file sharing? Given that Disney sold Miramax's back catalogue this year for less than $1m a film, I assume they don't think so. So the question is, do the benefits of maintaining a copyright system that used to work, sort of, outweigh the violence it does to the rule of law?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the copyright law is really the issue. Much of movie copyright law is moot when something like YouTube exists.

For example I watched the film Chicago on Netflix the other night. Well, I really just watched the good parts - which happens to be the first seven minutes.

In that seven minutes we have Catherine Zeta-Jones - the only real musical theater performer in the cast - do the only good song in the score - And All the Jazz.

I could have watched that seven minute excerpt on YouTube the way millions of others have. And on YouTube I could also watch about 100 alternate versions from the various "Original Casts".

I wouldn't bother with buying the Blu-ray disc because, the opening number aside, the movie is dreck.

So the copyright protects the dreck while the good parts are in the public domain? Right! That's why I don't worry much about copyright law.

Albertosaurus

Mike said...

I think the opportunity cost is immense, but not always easy to see.

There are two primary issues in this debate over intellectual property rights-- one, when things enter the public domain; two, how easy it is to use something under fair use.

I think the first can be important. And really, it's more about it being a no brainer that obscenely long copyrights hurt more people than they help, rather than you or I having a burning desire to mash up Creature from the Waterfront. The common example is that Disney built much of its empire from cribbing from The Brothers Grimm- but with Disney's successful lobbying for longer copyright, no one can do to Disney what Disney did to them.

I think the second issue, the ease of using a copyrighted work under fair use, is pretty obviously important. If there's a cloud of uncertainty over whether you'll get sued for something as trivial as having a 10 second clip of The Simpsons in your high school project, in your lesson plan, in your mashup video, in your sitcom, or whatever... you won't use it. Fox has generally asked for $10,000 for the right to use said 10 seconds of footage.

So you could try to use it anyway, and you'd probably win in court, but it'd cost you more than the $10,000 they're asking to defend your right to use the clip. So why bother?

And a lot of things are under copyright. This is a pervasive issue. Tiptoeing around this saps a lot of financial and creative energy.

Anonymous said...

I wish more bands would do covers and I wish more movies were remakes of the same great stories. I think that's what a culture does; by contrast the focus on "creating" ever newer stuff leads to the production of mostly crap. Of course a modern pop culture is different from a traditional high arts tradition, but even so focusing on the same few stories or ideas may be good for the quality of the product at least if not the culture at large. It takes real talent to say something old in a new way.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear about Richards someone asks, "why is he still alive?" I wonder how long he could live in the absence of drugs and alcohol?

Grey Swan said...

Enforcement of IP law has lead to widespread discontentment in the music industry, in that fans who pirate music and get caught are treated horribly in the name of their favorite band, which is bad for a band's relationship with their fans.

Also, IP law has led to, essentially, redistributive practices. A tech company that sues another company for "stealing" is hoping to get money out of the lawsuit. Using law to redistribute wealth is generally a horrible idea, as evidenced by history.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you are looking at this from a ridiculously simplistic level. It's not like copyright as it currently exists is stopping creativity - that really isn't the key argument against copyright; what it is doing is f_cking up the transmission of culture that was created under the current copyright regime.

A trivial example: go and watch the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati that is now up on Hulu, if you are familiar with that series when it originally aired back in the late 1970s. Much of the humor was tied in to the songs, but thanks to completely unreasonable copyright holders (or rather their lawyers) most of the original songs can't be played. So some other song is used which simply doesn't work for that scene (or in the case of the famous barking dog scene, it is simply cut short and the joke is lost). Even non-songs, like the trumpet blare from the movie Patton, were substituted in WKRP re-release, because apparently even a two second sound clip from a movie is "intellectual property". Likewise the door bell from Jennifer's apartment was changed; it simply wasn't as funny as the original.

Can you imagine what another 100 years of "culture" will be like if you have to pay a damned lawyer to use practically anything produced in the past two centuries?

NOBODY owns the damned culture! That's the whole point of culture! Just like NOBODY owns the damned language or the words you speak. Some things are better and more useful when no one owns them - "the tragedy of the commons" only applies to limited, finite, physical resources like land. When it comes to culture, the commons works better than trying to fence it off for private ownership.

keypusher said...

To me, state-enforced monopolies are a bad thing -- at best, a necessary evil. The justification for copyrights is to give authors an incentive to create new works by giving them the exclusive right to profit from their creations for a period of time. Shakespeare thrived without it...but anyway, does anyone believe that it's necessary to extend the copyright term for 70 years after the author dies? You can't even say it with a straight face.

Also, I believe Disney, which got rich exploiting public-domain stories, is one of the main advocates for extending copyright. Good enough reason to oppose it.

On the other hand, Red Letter Media did 4+ hours total of absolutely brilliant video eviscerations of the Star Wars prequels. Check them out on YouTube. You can do a lot under the rubric of fair use.

Chief Seattle said...

Its hard to justify a copyright lasting longer than a patent - although I'd hate to give them ideas. A patent generally requires significant capital to bring to fruition and yet it only lasts 20 years from the time of filing.

Also there's a certain Feudal feel about having songs and books that are basically part of the common culture be owned by a corporation. No matter how many people can sing the lyrics to a song they still have to pay another entity for the right to play it.

Long copyrights also perversely discourage new art - if the music company can make their profits by marketing old songs instead of funding new artists.

Chief Seattle said...

One grass-roots way to kill copyright laws would be for school districts to only include books in their canon that are in the public domain. That would save taxpayers money, encourage publishers to make their works public domain, and result in a generally better class of books for students.

asdfasdfasfd said...

"I read a lot of old books, newspaper and magazine articles that are available because copyright has expired. There are a lot of great authors from the 20's 30's 40's and 50's that I don't get to see because of copyright extension.
Extended copyright kills the vast out-of-print corpus to make a piddling amount of money selling the few books still in print from 90 years ago."

Does any of this matter in the age of youtube, file sharing, and digitalization? When my friends and I could burn cds, we burned most of them. And there seems to be a lot of dvd burning too.

asdfasdfadsf said...

It really should be called political snafu-ing.

Thomas said...

One issue is the promotion of NEW content. From the text of the Patent and Copyright clause: "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. 1., § 8, cl. 8 (emphasis added). In drafting the world's shortest written constitution, the Framers took the step of spelling out a specific purpose in a prefatory clause in delegating this power to Congress. The purpose of copyrights and patents is to promote the progress of science and the arts, not to create, as you point out, an idle gentry that lives on the rights of things created a lifetime ago (or one-third of the entire history of American government, if you want to think about it that way).

Anonymous said...

Probably Steve is right: length of copyright protections probably have little effect on the quality of entertainment. On the other hand, if successful creative people leave too much copyright swag to their creative children and grand children, this might act as a disincentive for them to be creative. Imagine if J.S. Bach's heirs were able to live comfortably off the royalties of just the Brandenburg concertos: CPE and JC may have just frittered away their lives at the roulette tables.

Jimbo said...

Le Sigh -

Even if you are a creative type, why should you care that people will still be able to collect money from it 70 years after you're dead?

I sure want to take care of my children, and maybe make sure my grandkids can go to college. But if the grandkids haven't managed to save a little of the income stream I've left them, then my great-grandkids can fend for themselves...

James Kabala said...

Anonymous's reasons are better than Yglesias's. I don't care about mash-ups and remakes and the like, but there have been cases of publishing houses who wanted to republish out-of-print classics and had great difficulty (sometimes no success at all) tracking down the copyright holders.

The other problem is the Disney-driven agenda that works from the 1920s onward will likely have their copyrights extended indefinitely, yet works from before that will not. Why should the heirs of Tolkien and Golding and Seuss be making money forever while the heirs of Dickens and Twain (let alone Shakespeare or Milton, if they could be found) will not be?

Anonymous said...

I think that the biggest problem is the MASSIVE disparity between the 70-year guarantee for "copyright" rights [humanities majors; typically Jewish, or rights sold to Jews] -versus- the 17-year guarantee for "patent" rights [hard science majors; typically Scots/English/German engineering & scientific types].

If we are going to have a regime of intellectual property rights, then we dadgum sure ought to have an attendant sense of equal protection/equal punishment as regards property rights, so that, in particular, either EVERYTHING gets 70 years, or EVERYTHING gets 17 years.

jody said...

have not thought about this much.

in many nations there is no such thing as intellectual property, patents, copywriting, royalties, or anything of that nature.

certainly the fact that most human groups produce almost nothing, is a contributing factor to them not having a legal framework for such an issue. nobody in their entire nation came up with anything new or vital in hundreds of years, so it's not an issue they have ever dealt with. it would be like american universities developing a legally binding alien lifeform classification system for our lawyers, so we can rule appropriately on all those legal cases involving the aliens landing in LA and johannesburg, despite the fact that humans have encountered zero (or nearly zero depending on whether a particular scientist thinks outer space rocks have provided us with fossils of viruses or bacterias) aliens of any kind.

but a few other groups which do produce some original stuff over time, also have few if any ideas about "intellectual property", a concept which they may either lack completely or which they generally do not recognize. so that is interesting also. in modern times, with so much money on the line, this could be a disincentive to innovate. would you want to develop a critical new engineering solution in china, knowing that you will be paid nothing for it and that some established "entrepreneur" (actually just a 50 year old guy with an existing 30 million dollar manufacturing operation) will steal it, copy it, and make all the money?

the printing press and the movie camera have, at least, introduced technology which enables humans around the world to create and mass produce copies of print and film, so now all nations can be said to have SOME volume of original intellectual output.

f1r3br4nd said...

Reasons why you, Steve, should care about copyright:

1. Without stringent copyright protections big media might not be able to grow so big, leveling the playing field between the great propoganda machine and folks like you. I think barriers to entry erected by big media are a far greater disincentive to new creative works than the lack of copyrights would be.

2. Copyrights allow copyright holders to just sit on an out-of-print copyrighted work and do nothing with it while preventing others from making it available to you.

3. Copyrights were, explicitly and from the very start of this country, supposed to be a temporary monopoly granted by the government to encourage the production of creative works. Not because they are a natural right, but as a necessary evil justifiable only insofar that it encourages innovation. To the extent that intellectual property rights are extended beyond this original purpose they are simply a government redistribution of wealth for not good reason.

4. Intellectual property "rights" are increasingly used as a pretext for censoring, intimidating, and surveilling online activities. Even ISPs are being browbeaten into being unpaid cops watching over their customers for the benefit of Disney and Sony. The value of free and open expression on the internet outweighs the supposed encouragement to innovation that intellectual property "rights" provide.

Truth said...

If intellectual property rights were not extended, anyone could build a Disneyland.

Reg Cæsar said...

1954 was also when the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant appeared. That was later turned into Damn Yankees.

Ironically that very year, the Yanks had their only 100+-win season in the decade beginning in 1949. And it was the only season in that stretch in which they lost the pennant.

adfasdfadsf said...

I heard the result was SATISFACTION, not AS TEARS GO BY.

asdfasdfasf said...

"It really should be called political snafu-ing."

This should have posted on the gerrymandering comment section.

Reg Cæsar said...

Murray Rothbard argued that patents are indefensible, but copyrights are legitimate. Of course, an author would say that.

Say, did everyone catch the recent New Yorker piece in which Keith Richards was compared to Grover Norquist? He also claimed to have been off dope for at least 30 years. I believe the Oldham story, because it does seem to fit in with their general level of songwriting craftsmanship.

adadfasdfasdf said...

"in many nations there is no such thing as intellectual property, patents, copywriting, royalties, or anything of that nature."

WHAT??? That's just too extreme. If all that was at stake were poems or poster art, it might not matter. Who cares if someone writes a great poem and it's shared freely by everyone. And poets don't need to be rich to have that special aura.

But there are two areas where this would be detrimental.
One is an expensive art like cinema. If moviemakers didn't have intellectual protection, pirate bootleggers would suck out all the profits, and big-budget movies could not be made anymore.

Another is pop culture associated with glamour. What we loved about the Beatles and Stones were not only their songs but the fact that they become superrich demi-gods through their great music. We want rock stars to be fabulous and glamorous, and that takes a lot of dough. In Russia, due to massive pirating, even successful rock stars are like folk singers over here who live off dinky gigs.

OTOH, with the current state of pop music, who the hell cares anymore? (And if the kind of big budget movies they make nowadays are crap like AVATAR and IRON MAN, I don't much care either.)

Anonymous said...

If intellectual property rights were not extended, anyone could build a Disneyland.

I know [or at least suspect] that you are trying to be funny, but that would fall under a third category of intellectual property rights, called "trademarks".

Again, right now we have a MASSIVE disparity in the protection afforded the various categories of intellectual property rights:

Hard Science Majors [patent rights]: 17 years

Humanities Majors [copyrights]: 70 years

MBAs [trademarks]: FOREVER

If you invent a vaccine which protects mice against rabies, then you get 17 years.

If you produce an animated movie featuring a mouse as a Sorceror's Apprentice, then you get 70 years.

But if a mouse is on your corporate logo [or is an easily recognized aspect of your greater corporate image], then you get forever.

b_a_ said...

Does anyone really believe there is a shortage of movie remakes, musical covers and samples of pop hits? If anything copyright laws should be more stringent then what they are. I think Steve is right on the money when he talks about people being stuck in an adolescent fanboy stage. Create your own stuff. If you really feel the need to re-release something and can't find the copyright holder... just do it, like they did at Something Weird Video.

Anonymous said...

If all that was at stake were poems or poster art, it might not matter. Who cares if someone writes a great poem and it's shared freely by everyone. And poets don't need to be rich to have that special aura.

But there are two areas where this would be detrimental.
One is an expensive art like cinema. If moviemakers didn't have intellectual protection, pirate bootleggers would suck out all the profits, and big-budget movies could not be made anymore.


PLEASE tell me that this was tongue-in-cheek.

Talk about a blatant disregard for the concept of equal protection/equal punishment...

Fred said...

"I think that the biggest problem is the MASSIVE disparity between the 70-year guarantee for "copyright" rights [humanities majors; typically Jewish, or rights sold to Jews] -versus- the 17-year guarantee for "patent" rights [hard science majors; typically Scots/English/German engineering & scientific types]."

So true. Aside from little things like stainless steel, genetic engineering, nuclear reactors, cardiac defibrillators & pacemakers, the laser, the microphone, etc., Jews never invent anything. It's amazing they even invented that much, considering how Jews typically major in humanities because they can't hack hard sciences.

Fred z said...

What a pack of thieves.

Someone creating a copyrighted 'thing' is the same as me building a house. It takes my time, my money, my effort and my skill.

Just as you wanna be squatters have no right to enter or use my house, no matter how old, or run down, or if given to my son, or his son, or his son's son, likewise you have no right to the copyrighted thing.

I have no idea why so many of you are so self righteous about your claimed right to steal someone's work product. It's pretty clear from circumlocutions and weasel words that you know it's not your stuff and you're cudgeling your 'brains' for an excuse, like a 3 year old faced with a cookie jar.

Anonymous said...

Much of art and music is derivative, as Reason pointed out recently, Bach copied alot of his own music to create new songs. British artists of the 60's like Page and Clapton copied riffs from earlier blues artists. Van Gogh and early artists copied each others styles and techniques. If they had the copyright protections of today in earlier times, much of that art would have never been created.

Carol said...

"in many nations there is no such thing as intellectual property, patents, copywriting, royalties, or anything of that nature."

How many? There are 164 signatories to the Berne Convention.

MQ said...

To all the people going on about the disparity between patent and copyright terms -- the usual argument is that the patent term for critical inventions (like lifesaving drugs) SHOULD be shorter than it is for relatively trivial things, since the social loss from government-enforced intellectual property monopolies is proportional to the social gain from using the product. If someone can't get free or low-cost access to Donald Duck, that's not a big deal, but if a sick person can't get access to a lifesaving drug because it's too expensive that's a very big deal indeed. Also, it's easier to gain a profit over a short patent period for vital/lifesaving inventions, since their significance makes it possible to charge a very high price for them.

Anonymous said...

Fred, you are right on in your response to Anonymous re his comment on the nefarious non-inventive "Jews." Odd how I can scroll down the comments on this website, most of them informative and rational, and then come to a comment like that, and I swear I can hear a theramin playing in the background.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, you should check out a PISA article in The Atlantic called Your Child Left Behind, which may reach a new low in elite fantasies about our educational system.

In Gladwellian fashion, the author begins with the line "For years, poor performance by students in America relative to those in other countries has been explained away as a consequence of our nationwide diversity."

She then goes on to tout how new groundbreaking research from a Stanford economist finally busts "the diversity excuse."

The economists try to rank different US states' math scores against foregin countries. For some reason, this ranking system also involves NAEP scores after regressing with PISA scores to fill in some missing data.

The big conclusions are that (a) the diversity myth that apparently dominates present discourse isn't really true; (b) even the brightest US students are much worse than their international peers; (c) we all must immediately adopt the educational reforms of Massachusetts, which had the "sacrilegious" idea of "demanding meaningful outcomes from everyone in the school building."

Whiskey said...

You can live without a pirated version of say, Richard Donner's Superman. Meanwhile, patented anti-cancer drugs have a limited lifespan for patent protection because while patent holders need payback for research costs, the benefit to society by making them public in relatively short order outweighs everything else.

If you don't like not having Superman in public domain, create your version. Heck recycling basic themes is pretty old. Superman is sort of Moses (think about it), only his promised land is America. NBC's "Life" was basically the Count of Monte Christo. "The Cape" is the Punisher meets Count of Monte Christo. The basic idea cannot be copyrighted, but the character SHOULD.

Why? Because copyright allows MORE creativity, particularly since e-books and such on Kindles, Iphones, Ipads, etc. allow folks like Steve Sailer to write an ebook, without a big publishing deal, and sell it for a profit. The ability of new technology (computers, e-readers, smart phones, tablets etc.) to enable popular content creation needs a way to make payment possible. Lots of crap will come out: that was true with the Rock revolution in the late 1950's to mid 1960's. But lots of good stuff too, will come out, but people need to be paid.

A cultural revival of traditional values will not happen without breaking Hollywood's status-quo 1960's attitudes by breaking their stranglehold on creation and distribution. This REQUIRES payment.

SFG said...

"Since historically our culture has always relied to some extent on referencing and borrowing from previously created materials (think of our national anthem, if nothing else ... though you could also try our legal system), this locking up of all culture is in sum negative."

Every culture does that. Heck, the Renaissance was just an attempt to go back to classical Greece and Rome...but imagine if Pheidippides' descendants had come after Michelangelo with lawsuits?

Le Sigh said...

Anon said...

Steve? Steve Sailer??!!
Are you serious or do you just have a dry sense of humor (not that there's anything wrong with that)?


I don't know why, but this made me laugh. :-p

My sense of humor is probably best described as 'annoying' rather than 'dry.'

Jimbo said...

Even if you are a creative type, why should you care that people will still be able to collect money from it 70 years after you're dead?

I would prefer knowing I had left a steady stream of income for my descendants. Beats some corporate execs getting the money.

Anonymous said...

LeSigh: I doubt that Steve would care much about whether his heirs would enjoy the fruits of his creativity for the next 60 years or century.

That's because he hasn't created anything worthwhile to pass down the generations of his family (right, Stevie?).

adsfasdfadsf said...

"Much of art and music is derivative, as Reason pointed out recently, Bach copied alot of his own music to create new songs. British artists of the 60's like Page and Clapton copied riffs from earlier blues artists. Van Gogh and early artists copied each others styles and techniques. If they had the copyright protections of today in earlier times, much of that art would have never been created."

True, but borrowing and stealing are two different things. All westerns borrow from and reuse a set of formulas, but if I remade High Noon with exact same story, characters, and dialogue, that would be stealing.

If I borrow the style or spirit of of "Yesterday" or "Ticket to Ride", that's one thing, and there were lots of Beatlesque bands in the 60s--Monkees, Bad Finger, etc. But if I copied a Beatle song note for note and word by word, that is surely stealing.

Anonymous said...

What's worse? Leaking government secrets or plagiarizing other people's work?

Baloo said...

Well, if copyright didn't protect my cartoons, I'd stop drawing them and do something else.

adfadfadsfaf said...

"A trivial example: go and watch the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati that is now up on Hulu, if you are familiar with that series when it originally aired back in the late 1970s. Much of the humor was tied in to the songs, but thanks to completely unreasonable copyright holders (or rather their lawyers) most of the original songs can't be played."

Let me ask you this. Should WKRP itself be made public property so that ANYONE can 'own' it?
If songs should belong to everyone, shouldn't it be also true of TV shows? If songwriters have no special right to keep making money off their songs, why should TV show producers make money off the programs they've made?

Anonymous said...

I've heard all the anti-IP arguments out there, and they are all intellectually dishonest and retarded.

I agree that 70 years after the death of the author is too long for a copyright to last, but would someone please name for me a few books that are out of print, not in the public domain, and cannot be obtained cheaply on the used book market (not to mention in a library)? I have heard this complaint about out of print books a million times, but I have never once heard a specific example of a book that someone wanted to obtain but could not. This is not a real problem, it's just something that anti-IP people bitch about for ideological reasons.

Everyone knows that copyrights are essentially unenforced right now (not unenforceable, as some will claim - shutting down BitTorrent trackers and obtaining IPs of file sharers is trivial given the political will to do so), and that all commercially produced movies, music, books, software, etc. can be obtained online for free. (Creature from the Black Lagoon is here for instance. Yglesias knows how to get it but is not intellectually honest enough to admit that.) The only thing really keeping these industries afloat is the fact that many people do not know how to use BitTorrent.

As more and more people learn how to use BitTorrent, content-producing industries will all be decimated, and innovation will be greatly diminished. This is obvious to anyone with much of a brain, but anti-IP advocates insist that "new business models" will save everything. For instance, bands will not be able to sell music but can sell T-shirts, and software companies have to give their software away but can sell tech support. Aside from the fact that this is obviously absurd and that the people advocating this crap have clearly never run a profitable business, consider that absent IP laws, there is nothing preventing people other than the bands from selling merchandise with their name on it and people other than the companies that produce the software from selling the tech support for that software.

I wonder: as manufacturing of physical goods keeps going overseas, and as the death of IP makes it impossible to profit from producing information, what exactly are Americans supposed to do to make money?

Anonymous said...

"Hi Steve, you should check out a PISA article in The Atlantic called Your Child Left Behind, which may reach a new low in elite fantasies about our educational system."

Obviously, Pat Buchanan's column -- which showcased Steve's PISA scores analysis -- has hit a resonance in public discourse. The counter-spin machine is attempting to squelch it with noise cancellation.

Anonymous said...

Just like with medical marijuana, there's a principled argument for loosening up copyright law.

Thing is, just like with medical marijuana, the people making the case actually just want to be douchebags without anyone hassling them for their douchebaggery.

The face of medical marijuana is some guy with cancer; the reality is some slacker art history major who doesn't want to lose his Stafford loans for toking 24/7. The face of copyright laissez-faire is some creative genius who can't publish his brilliant work because Disney will destroy him; the reality is...that same slacker, who wants to download Avatar and doesn't want to have to get a job so he can afford the DVD.

Anonymous said...

Rober Zemeckis is going to remake the Wizard of Oz soon from what has been reported,
http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/11/16/robert-zemeckis-remake-wizard-of-oz/.



I dont know if its creative laziness or whatnot, but Im saddened that this movie will probably be remade as a multicultural taunt at a cherished cultural artifact of the old European America.

Anonymous said...

"Now that we've got the Asian take on why copyrights aren't important, can we all move on?"

Hilarious. And so true.

Eric said...

The most persuasive argument I've heard from the anti-extension crowd is there are too many works out there for which discovering the copyright holder is going to cost more than the copyright is worth.

Let's say you wanted to reprint a gee-whiz moon base article printed in the 1960s in a now-defunct magazine. Odds are you won't be able to find out who owns that copyright, and if you did the owner wouldn't realize they owned it and would be unable to cheaply evaluate the value of the right.

So you don't bother. After all, how valuable is the article containing the reprint going to be?

The intent of extending the right after an author's death was to avoid the situation where an old or sick author couldn't produce anything salable because it would be public domain soon anyhow. But 70 years is a bit much - if we reduced the expiration to twenty years from the author's death I doubt it would affect the price of the work on the day the creator dies. The extensions were just another example of companies bribing Congress in an area the public doesn't care much about.

Anonymous said...

There are films with only one copy in existence literally rotting in vaults because nobody can or will grant permission to copy and preserve them.  Conservators would jump at the chance, but the repeated extensions of copyright prohibit them from doing so without incurring draconian penalties.

All of this is due to the interests of one party:  Disney Corp.  Every time "Steamboat Willie" threatens to fall into the public domain, Disney's pet legislators push through another extension of copyright.

Steve may see no harm to himself in this, but one should ask:  what if Shakespeare's heirs had such power?  What if Macbeth and Hamlet and the rest never became public domain, and it was a complex and costly negotiation with a squabbling family to get permission to perform them?  What would that have cost you, Steve?  What would that have cost all of us?  And for what benefit?  The Bard isn't going to write any more plays for us, and ol' Walt isn't going to direct any more films either.

A few years ago, some copyright activists petitioned the US Supreme Court to throw out the latest extension of copyright because the Constitution states that it must only last "for a limited period".  The SCOTUS found that there was, effectively, no limit.  This should worry all of us, because a government which can grant limitless terms to copyright can extend affirmative action forever as well.

Anonymous said...

If Donald Duck and Superman aren't all that "important", then it shouldn't be such a big deal to role back their copyright protections from 70 years down to 17 years.

Conversely, why shouldn't the inventor of a miracle drug be able to profit from his invention for the next 70 years?

It's his intellectual property, not yours.

Seizing it for your own use is called "Marxism".

We are supposed to be a country of equal protection of the law, and equal punishment by the law.

So let's get equality in intellectual property rights.

tommy said...

But, I have a hard time seeing how length of copyright does much, pro or con, for the quality of entertainment.

I think the whole point of copyright is that it is supposed to increase the quality of art. If it isn't performing that function, then there isn't much logic in extending the copyright. There is certainly no point in retroactively extending a copyright to older material aside from allowing descendants of the copyright holder to make more money. If anything, pensioning off descendants may discourage their own creative tendencies.

The very first copyrights in England, centuries ago, lasted no more than 14 years. In this day and age, when information is cheaper than ever, we have extended copyrights to ridiculous lengths.

Let's! said...

If copyrights expired sooner, then maybe cheapskate companies like kgb and Wal-Mart could find some newer public-domain songs to massacre for their ad campaigns.

Here's Wal-Mart using Turkey in the Straw for cryin' out loud.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_Vqr3LLT40

Here's kgb dredging up the William Tell Overture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL_BP8Jk4JQ

Anonymous said...

the usual argument is that the patent term for critical inventions (like lifesaving drugs) SHOULD be shorter than it is for relatively trivial things...If someone can't get free or low-cost access to Donald Duck, that's not a big deal, but if a sick person can't get access to a lifesaving drug because it's too expensive that's a very big deal indeed. Also, it's easier to gain a profit over a short patent period for vital/lifesaving inventions, since their significance makes it possible to charge a very high price for them."

Actually it's very easy to make high short-term profits on trivial things. No one with a brain would pay $9 + popcorn to watch a movie that will be priced at $1 for several people within a few weeks - except that hundreds of millions of people do, all the time.

Likewise, hit songs that everyone just has to hear over and over today are forgotten about within years or months of first release. Heard Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am" lately? Neither have I.

The vast majority of entertainment profits are made within the first few years of release.

Exceptions can be made for the rare artwork that becomes a classic, or works that are seasonal in nature, like Christmas songs. "Lord of the Rings" made more money 50 years after its release than it did in its first two decades, thanks to the movies, and to the technology that finally made them feasible (though Saul Zaentz made more money from that than did the Tolkien estate).

High quality works might stretch their profits out over a longer time frame, which is perhaps one argument for a lengthier copyright - except that the quality of artwork doesn't seem to be improving even as copyright protection has gotten longer. Truly great art is more often a labor of love, not (primarily at least) a financial calculation.

Nevertheless your arguments fall flat because rewarding trivial innovation over the more essential kind is still morally wrong. It may very well be that lifesaving medications shouldn't have more than a ~17 year lifespan. If so, that's an argument for shorter copyright protections.

Furthermore, drug companies are very often limited in how much profit they can make off their patented medicines. The FDA routinely denies approval for drugs simply because the pharmaceutical company wants to charge too much. Perhaps if patent lengths were extended drug companies would be able to charge less over a longer time period, or perhaps they'd spend more R&D funds researchiung serious illnesses rather than developing yet another SSRI.

Set copyright length equal to patent length. If 18 years is too long for a drug to be protected, then it's too long for artwork to be protected.

Not only is it immoral to reward a songwriter more than a drug inventor, but it gives Congress wiggle room for corruption. People may not care if Mickey Mouse's protection is extended, but lots of people care if drug protection is.

Charlie said...

I love that guy who showed up to say, "thieves, thieves, you people are all thieves". I think he's posted here before. There's nothing funnier than the moral outrage of a Randian.

The notion that an idea can be "property" is an interesting one. I'm not sure about the value of such a strange legal construction in encouraging technical innovation, but whoever thinks it encourages creativity is daft.

Back in the era and regions where and when, by common consent of people who know anything, the greatest artists in history were creating the greatest art in history - that is, about 1400-1800 in Italy, Germany and England - artists were not much concerned with the myth of "intellectual property".

The main reason is that making art was so easy. Once they had mastered their art, creating was like breathing. Your career was based on your ability to create beautiful things constantly, to order - not on this or that catchy song you wrote 20 years ago. If you failed to profit from one particular painting, or poem, or opera or whatever, you wrote another.

The idea that every little combination of words or colors or notes "belongs" to the person who happens to have mixed them together at such and such a time and place bespeaks an uncreative culture, to which creativity is some sort of strange bolt from above rather than an everyday phenomenon - even for people who consider themselves artists.

Creating art on commission, rather than trying to sell an already finished product, is a model that doesn't rely on IPR and it's something our society can easily return to (it's not as if it's completely gone now). Of course, as a way for artists to make decent money it's a terrible system, but the current one is much, much worse for the 99.99% of artists you never hear about.

Anonymous said...

I basically hate the idea of intellectual property (i.e. the granting of artificial private monopolies over ideas). I don't know if any posters here have mentioned software patents but they are perhaps the worst aspect of intellectual property. You could come up with an idea completely on your own and still have to pay the guy who supposedly came up with the idea first (as soon as he finds out about your independent discovery). Not only that but his patent could be extremely vague and omit important implementation details. Extremely long copyright durations are my other big beef with IP. I'm one of those people who basically refuses to observe IP law whatsoever as a form of civic protest. If "content-creators" (a pretentious term used by defenders of the status quo) insist on being completely unreasonable then I say screw them.

Let me remind everyone that you are supposed to pay to use the "Happy Birthday" song. I know some of the neocons here will tell us that's a Good Thing. (BTW constitution *spells out* that IP laws are supposed to foster the useful arts and sciences. How this is being accomplished by the present set of laws entirely baffles me)

Anonymous said...

Creating art on commission, rather than trying to sell an already finished product, is a model that doesn't rely on IPR and it's something our society can easily return to (it's not as if it's completely gone now). Of course, as a way for artists to make decent money it's a terrible system

So, how exactly is that supposed to work for music? You commission your favorite band to play a song for, say, $10k, and then it gets released for free to everyone?

If this weren't a completely stupid idea, people would already be doing it.

Anonymous said...

"Let me ask you this. Should WKRP itself be made public property so that ANYONE can 'own' it?"

You are not getting it; but the answer is YES. After a limited period of time under copyright, it should be in the public domain - as originally created and intended.

"If songs should belong to everyone, shouldn't it be also true of TV shows?"

Stupid question, but: YES. Why are you not getting this?

"If songwriters have no special right to keep making money off their songs,"

I never said that. Stop putting words in my mouth: it suggests you are either dishonest or not very bright.

"why should TV show producers make money off the programs they've made?"

Nice red herring.

You are completely, totally missing the point. Probably deliberately.

There is no difference between TV and music; it's all "intellectual property" (ie, a government enforced monopoly, a gross violation of natural rights that can only be justified for a limited duration on purely utilitarian grounds for the "public good").

I suspect that your questions are merely an asinine attempt to change the subject.

All culture builds on past culture. All culture is shared culture and is self-referential. Only a moron, a Randian, or a lawyer could think that 70 years after the death of the author is really a "limited time" as the authors of the Constitution intended.

But way to go with your asinine straw man argument, pal. My point wasn't that people shouldn't be allowed to make money off of their music or TV shows, but that those copyrights should be limited - they should not be perpetual, and they definitely should not interfere with the transmission of culture to future generations by tying down the rights to IP forever in a legal quagmire.

Anonymous said...

about 1400-1800 in Italy, Germany and England

That's precisely the time period in which copyright law was created. You might ask yourself why this was the case.

As far as copyright length goes, there should be multiple tiers. Make the default period of copyright, say, ten or twenty years; as now, this would be free and by default. The copyright holder can extend that if they wish, for a fee. So Disney can buy extended rights to Mickey Mouse after the initial twenty years are up if they're willing to pay some money, up to a maximum length of, say, 100 years. This solves the problem of orphaned works for which obtaining the rights is a legal mess, while letting entities like Disney fully exploit what is in reality an industrial product.

Anonymous said...

"about 1400-1800 in Italy, Germany and England"

That's precisely the time period in which copyright law was created. You might ask yourself why this was the case.


Nice try, but no dice. Copyright only came in very late in that time period, and was only for a very limited period of time. For instance the first copyright law in Britain was in 1709, and a copyright only lasted for 14 years (with possible one time renewal for an additional 14 years if the author was still alive and requested it). This law was the basis for the first copyright laws under the US Constitution.

So, for over three centuries the authors (actually, in practice, their publishers) had no copyrights at all, and for the last century, their copyright was very short.

I think the OP's point still stands.

Notice that even in the 18th century, the IP-rent seekers were already trying to establish perpetual copyright:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_Kingdom

Someone at the time understood that continued lobbying to extend the period of copyright was a de facto perpetual copyright, a la the Disney strategy forseen in the 18th century:

"I see no reason for granting a further term now, which will not hold as well for granting it again and again, as often as the old ones expire... it will in effect be establishing a perpetual monopoly, a thing deservedly odious in the eye of the law; it will be a great cramp to trade, a discouragement to learning, no benefit to authors, but a general tax on the public; and all this only to increase the private gain of booksellers."[21]

Anonymous said...

"So, how exactly is that supposed to work for music? You commission your favorite band to play a song for, say, $10k, and then it gets released for free to everyone?

If this weren't a completely stupid idea, people would already be doing it."


People are doing it, so your point is confounded by the facts. It's not a very popular way of doing things right now, because, as the OP pointed out (which you apparently didn't read or didn't comprehend), it is a system which works best when there are no copyright laws in place, or very limited copyright. Since there are in fact copyright laws in place, in effect, perpetual copyright, there's less motivation to use such a system right now, so you won't see many people doing it.

But some artists are trying this system; there's not many rich patrons around anymore supporting artists since we've done away with the landed aristocracy, so other methods are being tried, such as asking a band's fans to donate towards a future project. In addition to donations, bands can support themselves by playing gigs and thus making their money from performance art rather than selling recordings. Giving away mp3s over the internet thus acts as a promotional tool to market the band. It's not big money, but it allows bands to support themselves without having to sell their souls to the record companies (this is why so many musicians die poor - their music may make a lot of money, but often its the record companies that own all the rights, not the musicians who actually created the music).

If copyright laws vanished tomorrow, or were greatly reduced (back to say, 18th century standards), writers would continue to write and musicians would continue to create music. They will change their business models and find new ways to support themselves, or find someone to support their work.

Contra what the Randians (not necessarily Ayn Rand herself, but rather her cult followers) and Neo-Cons will tell you, no one has a legal right to their business model. If new technology makes their business model obsolete de facto, then de jure makes no difference - they will go the way of the buggy whip makers. Trying to use the force of government to prop up this obsolete business model is not only futile, it is positively evil.

The middle men who make money under the current system will lose out, and good riddance to them. They mostly are anti-white HBD deniers, "inner party" types as Yggdrasil calls them, whose ill-gotten gains goes directly to funding our enemies. De-funding them is reason enough to drastically shorten copyright back to its 18th century duration.

Anonymous said...

"As more and more people learn how to use BitTorrent, content-producing industries will all be decimated, and innovation will be greatly diminished."

Hilarious. Gosh, before we had perpetual copyright, no one ever made music or wrote books or "innovated".

Seriously, dude, if you aren't a paid astroturfer working for RIAA or MPAA, you are some seriously deluded ideologue; perhaps an anarcho-capitalist type ideologically determined to use the full force of government to enforce fictional "intellectual property rights" at the point of the gun. Because, you know, "freedom"...and "down with the state". Because nothing says anti-state more than using the state to enforce privately held, state-enforced monopolies in notional constructs.

Anonymous said...

"I agree that 70 years after the death of the author is too long for a copyright to last, but would someone please name for me a few books that are out of print, not in the public domain, and cannot be obtained cheaply on the used book market (not to mention in a library)? I have hea/rd this complaint about out of print books a million times, but I have never once heard a specific example of a book that someone wanted to obtain but could not. This is not a real problem, it's just something that anti-IP people bitch about for ideological reasons."

Ah yes, the old "it doesn't exist if I shut my eyes and don't look" ploy, combined with the "moving the goalposts" ploy.

Look, you've had plenty of examples given in this very thread; secondly, it's not about reading the rare book, it's also about contacting the copyright holders. I've seen plenty of examples given in other threads on other sites when this topic comes up. Giving you one more example won't change your mind.

Project Gutenberg has struggled with this problem for years, but you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?

Google simply cut the Gordian knot and started copying out of print works, and let the copyright holders come to them instead. Maybe not "legal" but it got results, which anyone who doesn't have a huge corporation behind them can't get.

Libraries don't carry every book ever printed. Rare books don't always surface. I've put in requests for rare books with numerous dealers and never gotten any response. And when rare books do surface that are out of print, they are often ridiculously overpriced. Check out Amazon.com if you don't believe me.

It's not just about reading the out of print stuff, either (nice try there, moving the goalposts, or attempting to change the subject) but also about reusing/republishing it with the copyright holder's permission. This isn't just about books, either, it's about magazine articles and the like. Again, examples have been provided for you in this very thread, but you pretend they don't exist. It isn't our job to spoon feed you or chew your food for you. Do your own damned work for a change. It isn't our problem if you are willfully ignorant.

Wait; I take that back, just once, with exactly five seconds of Googling, I found plenty of examples for you, you dishonest, lazy piece of s........

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=out+of+print+book+in+copyright+unable+to+locate

If you are too lazy even for that, here are some specific examples, you dishonest, lazy piece of s......

http://www.oreillynet.com/policy/2004/05/06/kahleversusashcroft.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krupp_K_44_1.jpg

Svigor said...

MQ got it pretty close to my opinion. And I'm perfectly capable, if not currently too inclined, of creating original works. And it was my opinion when I was looking at a career creating original works.

Svigor said...

In the US, university researcher makes a discovery & then university lawyers fight with corporate lawyers on how much the discovery is worth, who is liable if discovery is harmful, who owns rights to spinoffs, etc., etc.,

Many years and many dollars later, MAYBE the discovery makes it to market

In China, (state run) university makes a discovery and hands it to (state run) company which immediately goes to market.


Meaning, American tech hits the street in China before it hits the street in America, many years later?

Svigor said...

I'm not sure "mashups" are really the issue (though now that you mention it, why shouldn't I write a story about Mickey Mouse - why can't he *ever* enter folklore or shared culture?).

That's one of my biggest problems with copyright law. Why do imaginary characters get this "protection," when real people do not? I can put Nixon in my script and make him dance a jig if I like, but not Mickey? I can defame whole countries, but not the X-Men?

Anonymous said...

you are some seriously deluded ideologue; perhaps an anarcho-capitalist type ideologically determined to use the full force of government to enforce fictional "intellectual property rights" at the point of the gun. Because, you know, "freedom"...and "down with the state". Because nothing says anti-state more than using the state to enforce privately held, state-enforced monopolies in notional constructs.

Huh? Aren't libertarians and "anarcho-capitalist" types usually the ones who hate the idea of intellectual property?

Anonymous said...

After a certain amount of time, ideas get incorporated into culture anyway. In a sane legal system, copyright does not exceed the point where something becomes part of the cultural canon.

Superman should be in the public domain. It belongs to everybody now far more than it does to DC Comics exclusively.

Anonymous said...

But some artists are trying this system; there's not many rich patrons around anymore supporting artists since we've done away with the landed aristocracy, so other methods are being tried, such as asking a band's fans to donate towards a future project.

Trying and mostly failing, as far as I can tell.

Giving away mp3s over the internet thus acts as a promotional tool to market the band. It's not big money, but it allows bands to support themselves without having to sell their souls to the record companies

The internet would actually give them a great opportunity to sell albums without needing the middleman, if it weren't for the fact that you can just download them for free on BitTorrent. And they could still do live gigs, too.

If copyright laws vanished tomorrow, or were greatly reduced (back to say, 18th century standards), writers would continue to write and musicians would continue to create music. They will change their business models and find new ways to support themselves, or find someone to support their work.

These "other business models" do not really exist. If they existed we would have found them out a long time ago and never needed IP laws in the first place. Nor do they really exist for most manufacturers of physical goods (e.g. Nike couldn't stay in business if other people were legally allowed to produce perfect copies of their shoes without paying for the advertising, same for any other branded product), but we haven't stopped enforcing those laws yet.

Contra what the Randians (not necessarily Ayn Rand herself, but rather her cult followers) and Neo-Cons will tell you, no one has a legal right to their business model.

The question is really: do we want all music, books, software, etc. to be produced solely by amateurs with day jobs, or to exist only as advertisements for some other product or service? Will that be good for society? I don't think it will.

If new technology makes their business model obsolete de facto, then de jure makes no difference - they will go the way of the buggy whip makers. Trying to use the force of government to prop up this obsolete business model is not only futile, it is positively evil.

But nothing has really changed in this regard. The government has always been the only thing enforcing IP laws. The internet has made copyright infringement easier, but it hasn't made IP laws impossible to enforce, in fact it's easier in many ways (definitely easier to trace).

The middle men who make money under the current system will lose out, and good riddance to them. They mostly are anti-white HBD deniers, "inner party" types as Yggdrasil calls them, whose ill-gotten gains goes directly to funding our enemies. De-funding them is reason enough to drastically shorten copyright back to its 18th century duration.

This is not true. The big "old media" companies are being harmed, but small media companies are harmed more. There is no way for them to make money and move beyond the amateur stage (name a professionally-done HBD or White nationalist site, please). That's why so many of the ads you see on YouTube are for programs airing on traditional TV. That is what is frustrating, is that the "information wants to be free" ideology is ruining a lot of the opportunities that the internet would otherwise provide.

Anonymous said...

For instance the first copyright law in Britain was in 1709, and a copyright only lasted for 14 years

The OP was quarreling with the underlying premise of copyrights, not the time period for which they're valid. During the very period in which he mentioned as a golden age the economic forces of book mass production via the printing press created the push for copyrights and intellectual property of the book's contents rather than just the physical media on which they were printed.

Bit torrent is just a gone-to-school version of the printing press.

William said...

I read a lot of old books, newspaper and magazine articles that are available because copyright has expired.

This strains credibility and is more ridiculous if true. Old newspaper articles have always been free at any library and never had any appreciable resale market. Now, even current newspaper articles are free. The number of people interested in pleasure reading of news articles and periodicals from the early 20th century must be vanishingly small.

There are a lot of great authors from the 20's 30's 40's and 50's that I don't get to see because of copyright extension.

Right. You're enough of a reader that you like flipping through century-old magazines, but you can't find a library and don't have five dollars to spend at a used book store?

I don't recall a difference between the prices of public domain works like Dickens's and copyrighted classics like Hemingway's. Reading long works online or on a mobile device has only become moderately appealing very recently, and even now, I expect that market is quite small.

Victoria said...

Do people really mean this -- that they can't figure out why creators of works care about their property and the right to share its profits with their offspring, or whomever they choose? Is this really so hard to understand? How about the man who builds a business from which his sons/daughters benefit, and their sons and daughters? Is that an incomprehensible desire?

... the quality of entertainment ...

Who cares about the "quality of entertainment?" We're talking about somebody's property and his right to have control over it.

Why give short shrift to that songwriter, who is now 70 and infirm, and has nothing left to live off except that $125,000 a year in royalties that he's lucky enough to now be receiving? Is it okay for him, the creator of those songs, to benefit off his past skills and labor, instead of ending up on a park bench, while others profit from those skills?

The author of "True Grit" obviously received payment for use of his property from the makers of the first film version, and then profited again from the Coen Brothers for their latest version. What's wrong with that? Good for Charles Portis. May he and his descendants profit for the next 70 years.

The common example is that Disney built much of its empire from cribbing from The Brothers Grimm

You, too, can fool around with the Grimm stories, if you wish. Lots of people have done so.

if successful creative people leave too much copyright swag to their creative children and grand children, this might act as a disincentive for them to be creative.

How does this become a problem for others to worry over?

Why should the heirs of Tolkien and Golding and Seuss be making money forever while the heirs of Dickens and Twain (let alone Shakespeare or Milton, if they could be found) will not be?

Because life just isn't fair?! Have you noticed that?

I would prefer knowing I had left a steady stream of income for my descendants.

Exactly.

All westerns borrow from and reuse a set of formulas, but if I remade High Noon with exact same story, characters, and dialogue, that would be stealing.

Exactly.

I have heard this complaint about out of print books a million times, but I have never once heard a specific example of a book that someone wanted to obtain but could not. This is not a real problem, it's just something that anti-IP people bitch about for ideological reasons.

Exactly.

The idea that every little combination of words or colors or notes "belongs" to the person who happens to have mixed them together at such and such a time and place bespeaks an uncreative culture, ...

What a funny line! Huh?

Google simply cut the Gordian knot and started copying out of print works, and let the copyright holders come to them instead.

Exactly. If authors cannot be found, then simply publish the material along with the information that the author is being sought and the publisher wishes to deal with them fairly.

Anonymous said...

I have heard this complaint about out of print books a million times, but I have never once heard a specific example of a book that someone wanted to obtain but could not.

Well, now you have. 200 Years Together, by Alekander Solzhenitsyn, is not available in English. That's right -- sometimes you can't even get eight-year-old books by Nobel laureates.

Anonymous said...

But if I copied a Beatle song note for note and word by word, that is surely stealing.

So, Steve, what's your take on Randy California and Stairway to Heaven?

-- Ben Tillman

Anonymous said...

Conversely, why shouldn't the inventor of a miracle drug be able to profit from his invention for the next 70 years?

It's his intellectual property, not yours.


Not really. We collectively contributed to it, but more to the point: chances are, in most cases, given a bit more time, someone else would have built on the work of others and taken the same next step that the patent holder did. The same can't be said for works of art and literature.

-- Ben Tillman

Truth said...

"Right. You're enough of a reader that you like flipping through century-old magazines, but you can't find a library and don't have five dollars to spend at a used book store?"

Doh;!

That was truly melodic. It almost reads like one of mine.

James Kabala said...

"Because life just isn't fair?! Have you noticed that?"

If you admit the magic year 1923 is arbitrary and Disney-driven and "isn't fair," I don't understand how you can then turn and portray it in the rest of your comment as a matter of great principle. If copyright post-1923 is going to become de facto eternal, descendants of pre-1923 authors have a right to be disgruntled.

tommy said...

I prefer a scheme that sets a flat 25 years for copyrights. I would also extend patents to 25 years. It often takes years to get a patented product approved by governing agencies and onto the market. As a result, I don't think a patented products should be granted less protection than copyrighted materials.

I don't like the whole "lifetime of the author" or "pay for extended protection" schemes because they make cataloging and researching copyrights a hassle.

none of the above said...

Victoria:

Not at all. We all understand that just about everyone would like the law to be redefined to give them more rights, powers, and money. We'd all like that. What most of us can't figure out is why we, who don't own intellectual property that's about to roll into the public domain, are supposed to support retroactively extending the copyright term.

Similarly, patent holders would like the terms of patents to be extended retroactively, rich divorcees would like the terms of family law to be retroactively redefined so they got either extra alimony or reduced alimony, property owners whose deeds don't include mineral rights, and who later turn out to have oil under their land would like their property rights retroactively redefined, etc. Again, all perfectly understandable. But why should I support any of that?

It can't be to incentivize more creative output, unless some writers and artists 70 years ago were also fortune tellers.

Anonymous said...

But if I copied a Beatle song note for note and word by word, that is surely stealing.
No it isn't. The Beatles (those that still live) aren't being deprived of anything that's truly theirs. If you really are going to buy into this idea that people can "own" songs, then everytime a song repeats in your head you owe them money. Any idea, as soon as you are aware of it, belongs to you as much as its originator. (Obviously, only the originator can take credit for the origination, but for anyone else to take credit would be fraudulent.)

I noticed in these threads that Whiskey was right on queue. He's always defending the the status quo without missing a beat.

I believe that its time for a complete repeal of all IP laws. When artists and corporate america want to start being reasonable, reasonable laws intended to benefit the public (as opposed to private plutocratic interests) can then be slowly and thoughtfully introduced.

Svigor said...

No, pirating IP is not stealing. It's copyright violation (breach of contract, I guess?)? Not stealing. The IP industry justifiably thinks people will be more easily deterred from piracy if they hear "theft!", not "copyright violation!" The latter just doesn't have much oomph, but it's the accurate term. And since I'm not on the IP industry's payroll...

Svigor said...

The same can't be said for works of art and literature.

-- Ben Tillman


Sort of. I can GUARANTEE if Siegel and Schuster hadn't come up with Superman, someone else would have come up with a character named Superman. 100% chance. That's the kind of thing I object to, in copyright law. No, I don't think anyone should be able to pump out Superman comics with a character similar to DC's Superman. Yes, I do think someone should be able to pump out comics about a character named Superman, even a Superman able to leap tall buildings and run faster than a locomotive, if he doesn't have that diamondoid "S" on his chest, blue suit, red cape, come from Krypton, etc.

In short, it's just not that revolutionary or inventive to have a guy called Superman, who has Super-powers (even Super-everything powers) and flies around in a tight suit. It's bordering on inevitable, given spandex-wearing hero comics.

You can go on like this forever. Is it really a stretch to think anyone can "design" a character like "Spiderman," who wears a suit covered with a web design? A third-grader can come up with this stuff.

Kai Carver said...

"Can I Get An Amen?"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SaFTm2bcac

Sorry, can't find a transcript, but it's a very listenable-to argument for something between too little copyright and too much.

"Virtually all 20th century cultural output has been locked away from the public domain, barred from sampling unless one has deep pockets and expensive lawyers."

Would you be happy if you were sued or required to pay for every piece of text that you cite in your blog? Would that inhibit public discourse at all?

"Can I Get An Amen? is an audio installation that unfolds a critical perspective of perhaps the most sampled drum beat in the history of recorded music, the Amen Break. It begins with the pop track Amen Brother by 60's soul band The Winstons, and traces the transformation of their drum solo from its original context as part of a 'B' side vinyl single into its use as a key aural ingredient in contemporary cultural expression."
http://nkhstudio.com/pages/popup_amen.html