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Mar 20 2012

Copyright is forever

This. Everything in this video is exactly true. Especially the stuff about the new Star Wars trilogy.

Thing is, copyright will keep being extended to protect The Mouse. The US will never allow Disney’s one original character go out of copyright. Ever.

When talking about copyright infringement, it’s never about content creators. It’s about companies who appropriate content and use it as fodder for their money-making machines. They just leverage the content creators into the argument to obfuscate the fact that those creators cannot possibly benefit from this arrangement.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    Patents (the other aspect of what is in the constitution as mentioned in this video) are in an equally messed up situation to the benefit of the corporations. Actually, kind of amazing how much damage corporations have wrought in the US and around the world in the name of greed in just the past couple of decades alone.

  2. 2
    baal

    I for one welcome our corporate overlords. May they continue to lock down and keep control on all content creation and distribution and prevent uppity upstarts from creating and distributing content. Even, yeah necessarily, to the point where foreign owned companies can legally root hack your PC w/o notice and just cause they feel like it (think they eventually took out that provision of the DMCA when Sony did what the US law allowed).

  3. 3
    Blondin

    “Forever less one day”

    Well, at least it’s not forever.

  4. 4
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Yyyyyep. You know it. My favorite bit is when works have been pulled from the public domain and placed back under copyright.

  5. 5
    leftwingfox

    I don’t completely agree with this.

    Yes, life + 70 years is excessive. I do think there’s value in, say 30 years _or_ the life of the creator, whichever is longer which would allow the original artist to profit from their works for the duration of their lives.

    Is there value in the remix culture? Sure. But that culture is there NOW. Better to encourage open licences like the Creative Commons, than to scrap the system or prune it back to the “founding fathers” version.

    Using George Lucas and Star Wars is something of a cheap shot. He’s one of the lucky ones.

    It ignores the issue on an author in their 20′s hitting it big in his 50′s, and suddenly finding their early works in the public domain just as they start earning income. Why screw over the middle-class/working-class authors just because one guy made something we loved, and then proceeded to shit on it?

    I also don’t see any inherent “right” for people to rely on culture in their own lifetimes to be remixed. The inability to tell a “Darth Vader Story” without Lucasart’s permission hasn’t stopped a crapload of comics, books, TV series and video games starring the character by writers and artists other than Lucas.

  6. 6
    HP

    By Disney’s “one original character,” I assume you’re referring to Disney’s appropriation of Buster Keaton’s character in Steamboat Bill, Jr., dressed up like a blackface minstrel and given superficial zoomorphic features?

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh man. There goes Disney’s one “original” IP, if you expect prior art to be honoured. Good catch, HP.

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    leftwingfox

    That’s an interesting take, and a genuine concern for some people, but that is neither the intent of copyright, nor how it is used in most cases. Most creators do not have he rights to their own works – although they can potentially take those rights back after a certain amount of time.

    Rather than taking a moralistic perspective about what might happen to a few creators (never mind what the middleman industry actually does to creators right now), look for the facts. See what independent research (not middleman (e.g., RIAA) propaganda) shows about copyright and similar issues, what actually happens under different systems, and how no one’s work is particularly original in the first place. (Your starving artist just coming into their own was surely “inspired” by prior works. Do you want that held against them?)

  9. 9
    leftwingfox

    F: I take great exception to your “independent research” implication. I’m an animator and freelance artist. I’ve been at this for over a decade. I’ve attended copyright seminars with hollywood lawyers representing animators and agents, and am quite aware of “Work for Hire” and “Moral Rights” (which is more a Canadian/European issue than a US one). I am quite up to date with the Creative Commons, EFF, and various controversies with the DMCA, SOPA, and PIPA. More than that, I’ve dealt firsthand with the horse-trading of IP rights within the industry (the sort of thing companies do to each other, not jut to the general public.) I’ve also dealt a lot with the issues of fan-derivative works, and the delicate balancing act companies do both to encourage participation by their fans, while protecting their brand.

    The only way I could do _more_ research on this is to get a law degree.

    The issue is this: copyright law, as originally intended, is a good idea.

    What has changed is the rise of corporate power and corporate lobbying. What was once “Life of the creator” became “+x amount of time for corporations”. Combined with the digital revolution that has made distribution cheap and ubiquitous (yet done little to affect the labour costs of actually producing the work), and allowed for electronic “locks”, that things are changing.

    The problem is not the foundational law, but the the corporation-friendly extensions, and the restrictive locks which encroach on Fair Use or allow easy government censorship. A lot of people complaining about copyright throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s part of why I love the Creative Commons; it relies on existing copyright law to work. The ability of artists to provide easy, understandable share and remix licenses without preemptively releasing their work into the public domain is an awesome idea.

    By the way, your “starving artist” bit at the end is pointless. NONE of the copyright laws prevent you from making a story ‘Inspired by’ prior works; they prevent you from
    a) re-distributing copies of the original works
    b) incorporating actual pieces from the original work in a new composition
    c) creating an actual sequel or rewrite of the original. “Inspired by” is fair game.

    Look at the industry. That sort of copying you talk about at the end is RAMPANT, and not the issue here at all.

  10. 10
    leftwingfox

    Sorry, One last note about “corporations” versus “the artists”.

    One of the big things with the internet is the rise of independent publishers and digital distribution systems that do not require the sale of IP to a publisher or producer. For art which requires a major up-front production cost and team effort (feature films, tv series, AAA games) we’ll probably never be free of the major corporate backers. Indie gaming, digital publishing, webcomics, and commercial art all now have the ability to benefit the smaller artists, and allow them to exercise their copyrights as they wish. That might mean more Creative Commons, more freemium systems, more micropayments to try and make a living from their artistic labor.

    SRSLY, the big issue strangling creativity and culture in mass media is not copyright, it’s distribution monopolies.

  11. 11
    Knasher

    One question I often wonder about copyright extensions is if the goal of copyright is to encourage new works by ensuring the authors get fairly compensated for them. Then why are extensions to copyright law applied retrospectively? Surely the authors felt the copyright scheme they would have originally fallen under was enough to encourage their creation, otherwise we wouldn’t have had these works to being with.

  12. 12
    John Horstman

    @5:

    It ignores the issue on an author in their 20′s hitting it big in his 50′s, and suddenly finding their early works in the public domain just as they start earning income. Why screw over the middle-class/working-class authors just because one guy made something we loved, and then proceeded to shit on it?

    Well, the short answer is that, if we’re going to presuppose a market economic model (which makes sense because that’s what we have right now), I don’t think you should still be making money off of something you did 30 years ago. The market spoke when you produced it, and it was not supportive. The fact that your work clearly (clear due the the later popularity) has enduring cultural/intellectual value is immaterial, at least in part because information only has value through its spread, which is better-facilitated by an open structure. I think market capitalism is terrible, but don’t argue for privilege. I don’t expect to be paid a lot more money for the work I did shoveling sidewalks as a kid just because gas prices suddenly spike thirty years later and people value manual labor much more (making my past labor something that would be more-valued in the present market context). If you have an issue with how artistic or academic work is compensated at the time of production, your issue is with a market economy. Copyright doesn’t fix the fundamental failings of market capitalism.

    Re: #9:

    The issue is this: copyright law, as originally intended, is a good idea.

    I disagree. The original intent of copyright law was to encourage production of IP by making it easier for artists and academics to profit from their endeavors. Again, this is only a nominally good thing if one presupposes a market economic model, and/or that IP production needs incentive. I don’t like market capitalism, and I know that art and intellectual pursuits don’t need incentives beyond their own merits. Most of the musicians and painters and photographers I know, as well as the most dedicated academics, do what they do because they love it, they find their pursuits intrinsically valuable, not because they’re making money (in fact, only the academics are making money, and not that much). I think it’s cool if you can manage to do something that you love and find intrinsically rewarding in order to pay rent, but I don’t think you (necessarily) have a right to expect compensation for it, and certainly not a right to expect compensation for a lengthy or indefinite period of time for labor that is performed once. Copyright was ALWAYS about trying to make more money for no more labor (while yes, also stopping other people from making money off of the labor of others, though, again, I see this as a failing of market capitalism). I recognize that in the system we currently have, it’s sometimes necessary to compensate IP production with money in order to ensure it will continue to be produced, so I do so for things I like, but I view that behavior as a necessary evil the results from contextual factors over which I have no control, not an intrinsic function of the production of art or knowledge.

  13. 13
    John Horstman

    @11: That’s not the goal of copyright, that’s the stated rationalization for copyright. Artists didn’t even need the incentive supposedly provided by copyright law in the first place, as evident from the fact that art has existed as long as humans have existed, while copyright law has not. The goal is to make as much money as possible for as little labor as possible in a capitalist (perhaps not even market capitalist, as copyright laws existed in the market/feudalist capitalist/state-property hybrids that characterized Europe’s transition from a strong centralized feudal system to decentralized capital/trading markets) system. Contrary to the claims of the likes of Milton Friedman, money and incentive are not the same things (well, the classical economists from whom I’ve taken classes and those we’ve read for said classes recognize this, though they tend toward the bad habit of conflating the two in order to simplify/make-possible their models for human economic behavior).

  14. 14
    leftwingfox

    That’s… a very deep pile. Let’s start.

    Artists didn’t even need the incentive supposedly provided by copyright law in the first place, as evident from the fact that art has existed as long as humans have existed, while copyright law has not.

    Yes… BEFORE TECHNOLOGY.

    When artists dealt with originals or early lithographic prints, there was no issue. The print _was_ the product, and the two were ultimately inseparable.

    It was the movable-type printing press that made the idea of copyright even an issue. Suddenly, a company for relatively minimal effort, could take my book, copy it, and mass produce it. Their labor didn’t produce the content, and the content is the only reason people buy the product.

    Copyright law is the recognition that content is fungible in a market system, and thus allows it to be treated as property, with various rights attached. It is the legal tool that allows the creator to treat the work as something with value. Without it, there would be nothing stoping someone from claiming the work as their own, rewriting , repackaging, reprinting and reselling without attribution or recompense.

    If you think DRM is messed up now, imagine what this world would be life if controlling access was literally the only way to ensure income on reproducible material?

    If you want to tear down the foundations of copyright, you’ll need to convince artists that you have have a better system to replace it.

    (And yes, extensions, DMCA SOPA and PIPA are all terrible bills, but they’re terrible because they are gutting the fundamental compromises of Copyright law, and reaching into areas far beyond their intended scope.)

    Now for the really messed up part.

    The market spoke when you produced it, and it was not supportive.

    This, sir, is 10 tonnes of fail in a 1 tonne boat.

    For starters, you are conflating paid labor and investments. “Work for Hire” artists do not own their copyrights, and unless they actually have a deferred benefit system like royalties or residuals, they will not see any future payments, just like your lawn mowing. Even the lawn mower might have similar deferred payment systems, like pensions.

    A self-employed artist on the other hand, is NOT paid up front, and instead is investing their time and money into a fungible product.

    Your metaphor implies that if I build my own house, I should never be able to sell it for more than I paid to build it. If you’re going to sell me on the hard-nosed realism of how “markets work”, don’t pitch me a model that ignores the concept of investment. I might not like Wall Street, but I recognize it exists!

    Most egregiously, you’re conflating the right to SUCCEED in the market with the right to EXIST in the market. You are absolutely correct that I have no “right” to succeed. No-one owes me a living in our current system. My art may become more profitable, or it might not, but why shouldn’t the investment of my time and education be restricted from even potentially paying dividends?

    Basic copyright law is the only thing that recognizes content as a distinct entity. By making art only about labor to make the physical object containing the content, you restrict it to the few fields willing to pay for it in advance: instructional material, advertising, commission by the idle rich, and religious iconography.

    As mentioned before, the only ways the investment would pay off are in fields where you can control viewership: more live performances, less recorded material. Much stricter copy protection technology.

    ————–

    But then I realize I’m arguing about the consequences of eliminating the fundamental concept of Intellectual Property in the current Market Capitalist system, not some abstract economic system that I don’t actually live in.

    I recognize that in the system we currently have, it’s sometimes necessary to compensate IP production with money in order to ensure it will continue to be produced, so I do so for things I like, but I view that behavior as a necessary evil the results from contextual factors over which I have no control, not an intrinsic function of the production of art or knowledge.

    What kind of messed up philosophy is that? This sounds like the same excuse Christians use to leave bible tracts instead of tips at restaurants.

    Tell you what, start a working model of anarcho-syndicalism or communist utopia where no-one profits on another person’s work, THEN I’ll be willing to give up the legal tools that allow me to compete in the world we actually fucking live in.

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