Home > Uncategorized > Copyright now, Copyright forever!

Copyright now, Copyright forever!

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Can you imagine if one day you walked into a bookstore (I know, people don’t do that any more. We’re imagining here. Bare with me) and you couldn’t find any works of, say, Shakespeare, because his decedents were given back copyright to his works, and sold them to Disney who decided that no one could publish any of his plays any more. They wanted to focus on “building the Shakespeare brand”, and the plays were too old fashioned. However, they did promise that the theme park would be awesome.

Seems crazy. For one thing, Kenneth Branagh would be out of a job. So would a thousand mediocre English professors. That would destroy the tweed sport coat industry. And on and on through the society. All this why? The author is long dead, and won’t care one way or another.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “intellectual property” and the way we value profit over ideas and creativity. And it just so happens that the day after I start a new blog, the NYT has an article that touches on a the idea of perpetual copyright.

First off, let me point out that IP law is not there to protect you. In it’s current incarnation, IP law exists to protect Time Warner. And Disney. And the few other multinational corporations that own most of the media we consume. These people literally own the bulk of pop culture like baseball cards stashed in a closet. And if there’s one common strand of DNA built into every big corporation, it’s it’s never give up what’s yours for free.

So every 20 years or so they grease up a few congress-critters and get copyright extended for another 20 years, and you’ll never be able to make your release your home movie remake of Enter The Dragon without getting sued. Some company owns the copyright to that movie and they’ll be damned if some punk kid is gonna take it out for a joyride without paying up. And now they want to claw back movies, songs, and books that have already gone into the public domain.

Of course, things don’t have to be that way. Copyright terms are by nature arbitrary, and most of society seems to feel that works of art are more important as resources to me mined than they are as commodities to be traded (see: AutoTune the News). People want more access to media, not less. We’re breeding a generation of half man/ half lolcat cyborgs, and then outlawing their behavior.

Think about the disconnect between our public discourse and the way regular people live. Music, movies, and ironic Alf tee shirts are our first language. So would we be better off with more toll collectors and less media? I doubt it, but the worst part is that the benefit of average people isn’t even part of the debate. Copyright law has been so twisted that Congress is now in the business of taking things that belong to the public and giving them to giant media corporations. Does this help society? I mean, it’s not like the money that goes to whoever owns the rights to Guernica
could be used for anything more productive, right? Or could it be that some kid not seeing this painting because their art teacher couldn’t afford a license will live a little duller life? And shouldn’t that count for something?

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