Copyright Law and Society | Laws and Issues

With this message I have created a copyright. Should this post become as popular as say a Beatle’s song I could sue for royalties from everyone who forwards it. The copyright on the post lasts 75 years and if I register the copyright it will last as long as 100 years. Even what is in the copyright and what is not is questionable as I can later derive work from this post and extend the copyright.While Congress is spending millions studying the Drug War, Health Care, the Deficit and a myriad of other issues, the impact of an obsolete copyright law is far greater on society. On the corporate level there is a push to extend copyright, neglecting that most of what we see today on TV or the movies is derived work from historical authors like Shakespeare who then derived much of his work from Greek plays. On the left there are people like Thom Hartman who want to see copyright laws repealed guaranteeing Disney and other movie produces will never make another movie.Currently, Google is under a legal injunction preventing them from just scanning books that may still be in copyright. There is a better way to sort the current mess. Public domain works have become like the Guttenberg Project and with open source software a valuable resource. With the internet available to the world public domain works spread communication and education. There are many ideas and valuable history wrapped up in out of print works. The Internet exploits these works adding value to society


How much other obscure information becomes valuable when exposed on-line? Like Google the Guttenberg Project cannot put on line thousands of obscure and out of print books because of out of touch copyright laws. In the past a publisher – say of Schumpeter’s Business Cycles — had a motivation not to reprint an out of print book. They had to cover the cost of a minimum printing and this meant warehousing, distribution and promotion costs. Thus many, many books lie fallow, keeping library shelves full and supporting out of print book dealers.With every change in technology there are winners and losers. Economics generally sorts things out, however government and laws play an important part in making economic value. Without copyright laws the publishing industry would come to a screeching halt. Already the music industry is caught in a bind over internet distribution. Yet there are some simple solutions to this problem.1. Lower the length of copyright on non-registered works to three to five years. A short time frame would further expand the value of the Internet as a resource.
2. Make registered works re-register every five to seven years.
3. Raise the registration fee to a level that would support an enforcement fund.
4. Define clear penalties for infringement that are high enough to be enforceable but not draconian.
5. Automatically flow the funds from enforced royalties to the registered copyright holder.
6. Allow re-registration of copyrights to enter open bidding with the funds from a high bidder going to the previous copyright holder.
7. Failure to re-register a copyright pushes the work into the public domain.In effect the holders of registered copyrights would be paying a tax for enforcement just as banks pay FDIC insurance on deposits. As with domain names, all registered copyrights can now be on line. A cottage industry would spring up around bidding for expiring copyrights giving the owner extra bidding power. Fees collected as well as fines support rational enforcement. Fines could be split between copyright holder and the enforcement agency. In bidding for expired copyrights the enforcement agency would get a portion of the bid allowing for legitimate bidding and higher fees on properties with greater potential enforcement costs.


The same could be done with software where in-registration a copy of the code is archived with the licensing agency. On expiration the code would be released on-line allowing users access for bug fixes and modifications again making possible derived works and increasing the economy. When a product is no longer available for sale or supported and has embedded software that software becomes publicly available.On both sides the consumer and creator are protected. Unregistered works become publicly available much sooner and valuable works of creation take on greater and greater value as they become part of the culture. As things expire each has a chance at increased exposure. Out of print works become easily and readily available adding to the wealth and knowledge of society.

Copyright Law and Dying Newspapers – Congressional Hearings | Laws and Issues

Newspapers probably are the biggest victims of copyright infringement and generally they didn’t care much, as that was old news by the time anyone copied it and the new news is today. Yesterday is gone; “That was Yesterday!” like the lyrics in “Foreigner” the Rock Band’s famous song.Today, however everything has changed. Recently, in the congressional hearings the dying newspaper industry had several of the largest newspaper owners in the country complaining that they were being ripped off, that their content was being displayed on blogs, e-mail newsletters, and copied directly off their websites. In many cases, these so-called electronic copyright infringement violations were completely legal, as only 200 words or less were copied and the newspaper was cited.


Unfortunately, in many Internet forums the posters to discussions, often using only screen names, will copy and paste the entire article into the discussion group. And do this without even citing where it was from, and rather than putting up a link that people could click on to go to the newspaper’s website. The newspapers during the Congressional hearings were considered by many to be “grabbing at straws,” looking for help from Congress to crack down on online media (something they themselves are now trying to break into), and using copyright law as their reason.


Of course, luckily the Internet media was there also during these Congressional Hearings and made their case. It appeared that the legislators did not side with the newspapers. Although many newspapers are having their content lifted, almost in real time, not the next day; and the newspapers admit there is nothing they can do about it, as they cannot chase every single blogger around the Internet. Please consider these issues in copyright law, as they are very much part of our modern information age.