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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 09
Jun
2005

Writers for Less Money

What Max Reckons Last night I was re-reading that Bible of Hollywood screenwriting, William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, when I came across this:

(This) was, ultimately, responsible for the existence of Hollywood. All the major studios paid a fee to Thomas Edison for the right to make movies: The motion picture was his invention and he had to be reimbursed for each and every film.

But there was such a need for material that pirate companies, which did not pay the fee, sprang up. The major studios hired detectives to stop this practice, driving many of the pirates as far from the New York area as possible. Sure, Hollywood had all that great shooting weather. But more than that, being three thousand miles west made it easier to steal.

This morning, I saw this article on how the British government is planning to extend copyright protection from 50 to 100 years. This would bring it more or less in line with the US, which grants copyright until 70 - 95 years after the author’s death—a period extended in 1998 after lobbying from media companies, primarily Disney.

I’m a writer and earn my entire living from copyright, but this is nuts. Copyright has become a corrupt, bastardized version of itself. Rather than serving as a way to encourage creative works, today it’s a method of fencing off ideas and blocking creativity. And some of the companies pushing hardest for new intellectual property laws are the same ones that owe their existence to breaking them.

We invented copyright to encourage innovation: to make it worthwhile for people to create their own artistic works, rather than copy and sell someone else’s. The aim is not to bequeath eternal rights to an idea, or to make artists fabulously wealthy; it’s to provide society with new books, films, songs, and other art. Copyright provides incentive, but the incentive itself is not the point of the law: the point is to encourage creative behavior.

Having a few years of copyright protection is a good incentive. But a hundred years? Or seventy years after my death? (If I live to 80, it will become legal to print your own copy of Jennifer Government in 2123.) There’s no additional incentive in that. There is nobody, and no company, thinking, “Well, this is a good song, but if I only get to keep all the money it makes for the next 50 years… nah, not worth developing it.”

Copyright extensions, of the kind popping up everywhere lately, have nothing to do with encouraging more creative work, and everything to do with protecting the revenue streams of media companies that, a few generations ago, had an executive smart enough to sniff out a popular hit. It’s a grab for cash at the public’s expense. The fact that there is any posthumous copyright protection at all proves that the law is intended to benefit people who are not the original creator: that is, heirs and corporations. The fact that copyright extensions retroactively apply to already-created works proves they’re not meant to encourage innovation. The only reason copyright extension laws keep getting passed is because the people and companies that became fabulously rich through someone else’s idea are using that wealth to lobby government for more of it.

I’d make copyright a flat ten years. You come up with a novel, a song, a movie, whatever: you have ten years to make a buck out of it. After that, anyone can make copies, or create spin-offs, or produce the movie version, or whatever. Now that would be an incentive. You’d see all kinds of new art, both during the copyright period, as artists rush to make the most of their creation, and after, when everybody else can build on what they’ve done and make something new. You’d see much cheaper versions of books and movies that were a decade old. You wouldn’t have the descendants of some writer refusing to allow new media featuring the Daleks, or Tintin, or whatever. And artists with massive hits would be merely rich, not super-rich.

A century-long copyright (in the UK), or a lifetime plus seventy years (in the US) means books, songs, and films created before you were born will still be locked up when you die. During your life, you will see no new versions, no reworkings, reinterpretations, remixes, or indeed any copies at all, unless they are approved by whoever happened to inherit the original artist’s estate, or whichever company bought it.

Media companies are quick to throw around the word “thief” whenever a teenager burns a CD or shares a file over the internet. But this is theft, too, when an artist’s work is kept away from the public for a century. Ten years is incentive. A hundred years is gluttony.

Comments

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the-tine (#472)

Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: "Coming soon to a planet near you."
Posted: 3362 days ago

I'm the first to comment. YESSSSSSSS!!!!!! If my career doesn't work out, I'm going to copyright copyrights so anyone who wants a copyright has to get a copyright from me to get a copyright. I'll be rich! bwahahahah!

Ruth (#288)

Location: Bath, United Kingdom
Quote: "Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane."
Posted: 3362 days ago

Hmm...are you sure ten years is a little unfair? After all, something might take off after 15 years or something and the artist would be unable to take advantage of the popularity of their material (except by making something new perhaps...but they might of run out of decent ideas and end their life poor and lonely in a gutter. Or something.)

Generally though in principle I agree there's a serious problem there of stifling creativity and access to art, whether it be written works, music, paintings...

Do you mind if I borrow this entry to use for discussions in forums Max? Totally crediting you of course :)

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 3362 days ago

that's what I love about Canal Street...copywrite/shmopywrite.

Rob2Kx (#1125)

Location: Canada
Quote: "Anything for laughs even if it kills you"
Posted: 3362 days ago

4th!

isserley (#1320)

Location: Madrid, Spain
Quote: "I am an elegance bigot. If I’m going to sit in front of this thing for hours a day, I want to feel the intelligence that went into my OS. I want to sense that an English major lost sleep over the wording of the menus. - David Pogue, 06/1998"
Posted: 3362 days ago

max, although I completely second your opinion I have to tell you that you have no clue! (sheeesh, how good that sounds ;)
quote
*** Having a few years of copyright protection is a good incentive. But a hundred years? Or seventy years after my death? (If I live to 80, it will become legal to print your own copy of Jennifer Government in 2123.) There’s no additional incentive in that. There is nobody, and no company, thinking, “Well, this is a good song, but if I only get to keep all the money it makes for the next 50 years… nah, not worth developing it.” ***
--> Ask Yoko Ono and the other beatles or their heirs what they think about that point of view. - Their early works starts to lose copyright really soon, and they are soooo sad for all that revenue lost.
--> Besides, copyright in the US will soon be extended once again, because Disney and the likes stand to lose Mickey Mouse etc. -- and we all know how good free market is, right (especially if not THAT free and protects the big fish)

I can only repeat myself, I completely support your view, but I don´t see it´ll anytime soon.
Thanks
Matt

Andrew (#1279)

Location: Texas
Posted: 3362 days ago

Hear Hear... Copyright laws are missed up...

chris barton (#809)

Location: Arkansas
Quote: "I sell Books and put out Fires"
Posted: 3362 days ago

I think Lifetime plus 10 would be good, look at Robert Jordan,the 1st Wheel of Time book came out over 10 yrs ago and i'm still starting people on the series.

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 3362 days ago

*nods along* very well put. The current state of copyright laws is ludicruous, and it looks like Patent laws are going the same way - someone in Norway patented the mere idea of picking up a call on a mobile phone "through a secondary device", thereby meaning Nokia now has to supposedly pay royalties for their handsfree devices. lu-dick-rous.

As for length of copyright, I'd say 20 years, as that's generally what's considered to bound a "generation". But the counterargument is that people might get stuck in a loop, just recreating and making derivatives of stuff from 20 years previous. Then again, I think The Muppets' Christmas Carol is one of the funniest movies ever :)

JacksSmirkingRevenge (#1324)

Location: That place where Billy Elliot was comitted, England
Quote: "What can the harvest hope for if not for the care of the reaper man?"
Posted: 3362 days ago

Copyright is truly out of control! Did you know that they created a more disease resistent type of mouse and actually copyrighted it's DNA? It is now no longer complete Science-Fiction to consider an age when humans themselves are copyrighted, and have to pay a royaly to live! This must be stopped! For more, see 'The Corporation', great documentary. You'd love it Max-fans.

Jonathan Hill (#1377)

Posted: 3362 days ago

Maybe if Robert Jordan couldn't rely on any revenue from the first Wheel of Time book he would put some effort into the new ones, produce them quicker and with more than 5% content (I couldn't finish the last one, NOTHING HAPPENS). I think that is the point Max is making, If people can't rely on revenue from creative works their grandfather made 150 years ago then maybe there would be more incentive to create things now. A builder doesn't expect to get money from a house he worked on 10 years ago why should Yoko Ono and the other beatles heirs be getting money for something someone else did 50 years ago, go out and make something worth while now.

Sketch (#30)

Location: In the tree right outside your window
Quote: "Vote Sketch for Fascist God 2005"
Posted: 3362 days ago

W00t! You made a hit on Boing Boing - http://www.boingboing.net/2005/06/09/jennifer_governments.html

Machine Man subscriber Julie Totsch (#1341)

Location: Racine, WI
Quote: ""The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them." - Robert Frost"
Posted: 3362 days ago

I have no problem with material being copyrighted during the creator's lifetime. Now, with the Beatles, McCartney and Lennon created works together, therefore, since McCartney is still alive, Yoko Ono and other Lennon heirs should receive royalities.
I think ten years is a little too short of a time. I have no problem keeping copyrights to a person's lifetime and after that making it public domain. A century or a lifetime plus 70 years is why too long.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3361 days ago

As time goes by, I can only assume that this situation will exacerbate further. Afterall, with advancements in medical science, people are living longer. Copyright for a lifetime is going to probably mean a long time before long. Having it extended past your lifetime, by any amount, however, seems more like something thought up by someone with something to lose by things not being that way. Meaning, I'd reckon, that it was never brought in at the behest of the creators at all.

Maybe they could make it conditional? If an idea is to be held onto by heirs and corporations, they should have to continue to develop it, make more of it. And I don't mean just rehashes and crappy merchandise.

Look at Christopher Tolkien when he inherited Lord of the Rings. So much material, worthwhile and original material based on the initial premise, has been written and released since Professor Tolkien's death. That wouldn't have been possible if LotR was made free license, or it would have been swamped in cheap knockoffs and poor emulations.

Instead of letting people live off a gravy train they have no right to, which really, takes the piss out of the ordinary working man and woman, or conversely reducing copyright until it has no meaning for the person actually due credit, they should make it so that whoever inherits the thing has to work at it. It's not fair to the person who worked their arse off to create it from nothing in the first place for others to get a free ride, and it's not fair on the consumer for having their love taken and warped into a cash cow intended to generate money at the cost of producing second-rate spinoffs that come nowhere near the originals.

Adam A. (#256)

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." -George Carlin"
Posted: 3361 days ago

You know who makes the most money from The Beatles? Michael Jackson. He owns the publishing rights. Long ago, his "friend" Paul McCartney suggested to him that music publishing was going to be a good investment; so he went and bought the Beatles stuff out from under Sir Paul, and has been funding his...um, extravagant lifestyle with it ever since.
Back on topic, there's good and bad to it. It is true that since people (creators and their heirs' heirs) can milk their royalties for so long, they really don't have to do anything new, it does kind of force other people to come up with something new and original. Otherwise we'd have 'The Godfather 4: Back to da Hamptons'.
I'm for a 20-25 year copyright.

MacGyver (#1383)

Posted: 3361 days ago

First of all, straight from Wikipedia:

"In 1963, the Beatles gave their publishing rights to Northern Songs...."
"In 1969, James and Silver sold Northern Songs and its assets to a British TV company named Associated Television Corporation (ATV). n 1985, ATV's music catalogue was sold, and Michael Jackson was the highest bidder beating Paul McCartney with a reported $47 million for the publishing rights to approximately 159 to 260 Beatles songs. A decade later, Jackson and Sony merged their music publishing businesses. Since 1995, Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Beatles songs..."

Oh, I almost forgot one,

"Apple Corps, the holders of the Beatles copyrights, sued Apple for infringement on previous agreements with the launch of the iTunes Music Store..."

Whose lifetimes are you all talking about, the music artist hardly ever, if ever, owns the music they create. Only novelists and painters tend to own the copyrights to their works. These laws were not created to help artists anyway; copyrights were made longer for one company, and that is Disney. Mickey was set to go into public domain 2 years ago, so the Sonny Bono Act was created at that time to extend them to virtually forever.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles
http://osviews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=4259
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonny_Bono_Copyright_Term_Extension_Act
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_copyright_law

Robert Nagle (#1384)

Location: Houston, Texas
Posted: 3361 days ago

Well put. Here's a sort of response: http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer/?p=83398382

Yamara (#1385)

Location: New York
Quote: "Yes, that Yamara. www.yamara.com"
Posted: 3361 days ago

Hobbie wrote;

"Look at Christopher Tolkien when he inherited Lord of the Rings. So much material, worthwhile and original material based on the initial premise, has been written and released since Professor Tolkien's death. That wouldn't have been possible if LotR was made free license, or it would have been swamped in cheap knockoffs and poor emulations."

MMMmmmmmm-- No.

The Lord of the Rings only became popular because of a then-extant legal loophole in copyright.

Ace Books came out with an unauthorized paperback edition, without which the trilogy would never have become popular:

"Tolkien was re-editing because in that year, Ace Books in the United States published an unauthorised edition. The Fellowship came out in May 1965, the other two volumes in July. 150,000 copies were printed of each volume! The main text was reset, and introduced new errors, but the appendices were reproduced photographically, and thus contained only the errors already there. Ace Books were exploiting a copyright loophole which meant they did not have to pay Tolkien or his publishers any royalties. Houghton Mifflin appears to have imported too many copies, and the notice they contain, 'Printed in Great Britain' meant that the texts were deemed to be in the public domain in the United States.

"There was a campaign against Ace, who, as a result, agreed to pay royalties, and not to print any more copies. But, as a result of being advised that he had lost his copyright, even before the Ace edition was issued, Tolkien began to revise The Lord of the Rings, so that there could be an authorised paperback which would be a new edition, and more importantly, a new edition for which he would still own the copyright. This was published by Ballentine [sic] Books in October 1965. 125,000 copies of each volume were printed in the United States, and a further 10,000 in Canada. The text including the appendices was revised, Tolkien wrote a new introduction, extended the prologue and provided an index."

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/tale.html

Houghton Mifflin had been publishing hardbound editions, "accidentally" sold over 1000 in the US, and so the work legally fell into public domain briefly in the early sixties. Ace fearlessly produced the quantity necessary to make LotR a hit.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 3361 days ago

Ten years? I think copyright should be in force during the life of the creator. So a novel, song, CD, that sort of thing, would at least live as long as an author who's there to claim royalties. It's hard enough to make any money off a book.

The Disney thing brings up a seperate issue. Corporations are groups of people, and this is where it gets tricky. The guy who sculpted the Barbie doll, the gal who drew Holly Hobby, these people got their pay from Matel and Hallmark respectively, and per their employment contracts, got no more or less than they would have if their project had been a total loss.

A musical group is in some ways a company as well, though most don't incorporate as a LLC and all that, until you get to bands that are defacto media companies, such as KISS. On the other hand, jazz musicians change up all the time, so a given album may have a unique lineup, and those guys are, if anything, worse off that novelists in terms of making a buck because CDs are even easier to rip off than books in terms of digital piracy.

Basically, when a copyright is formally filed (you own the copyright to what you've written whether you've formally filed it with the gov't or not, though it may be harder to enforce), I say you should have to state which specific persons own the copyright to it. If it's a company, the lives and/or employment of specific individuals would be relevant to the life of the copyright. Disney could then assign Mickey Mouse to a human employee and advance cryogenics by decades in a mad dash to keep their precious royalties.

The United States caused a huge brain-drain on Europe in the 19th Century specifically because we had stronger intellectual property rights. They got violated like a blow-up doll, but they existed. I wouldn't be willing to deny Harper Lee, Thomas Pynchon, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, or anyone else who's still alive the royalties from their writing.

The biggest thing, really, that needs revisited in terms of copyright law though, is what constitutes being in print. Traditional publishing contracts never anticipated POD technology, and there's no excuse for any book to be out of print. Amy Hempel benefits not a dime (nor does Knopf) when 'Animal Kingdom' sells for $175 on eBay just because it's out of print and being promoted by a front-list author. Standard book contracts should explicitly revert electronic AND print rights to the author if the publisher doesn't want to continue printing a work.

Group and company rights necessarily end up being complicated, and I'm all for breaking up the anti-creative angles of the copyright law, but I don't think that making Daleks available for fan fiction is the answer.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3361 days ago

thu. 9 june 2005

THE PANDA CHRONICLES CONTINUES...TO SUCK

First of all, I hope that I am not breaking any copyright laws by writing this story. Secondly, I think maybe I should copyright it. Maybe someone who is dumb and under the age of 12 might want to steal my idea(not likely)...

PANDA CHRONICLES part duex

Let's see...where was I? Oh yeah. Was Electik Panda ready to accept his fate and put an end to Red Pandas evil ways? the answer is simple, Electik Panda was not ready to accept his destiny, but he was going to do it anyway. This is his story...

"Electik Panda! Electrik Panda," shouts a small panda trying to get Electrik's attention, " Electik Panda!"
"Yes, can I help you?" Eletrik replies.
"Come quick, our village is in danger."
"What?!"
"Red Panda and his minions have come a killed our families in search of the one chosen to stop him!" By this time the little panda is in tears.
"How do I know this isn't a trick? Are you lying to me little girl?"
The small panda begins to sob even louder and runs off.
"I guess she was telling the truth. I must go back and stop Red Panda and his minions!" Electrik Panda let's out a savage panda battle cry and begins to head back towards the village, but only at a moderate pace, occasionally stopping for bamboo and talking to old friends.
Upon arrival at the village, Electrik begins to cry for everything is destroyed except the little merry-go-round that the panda cubs played on(even though is was still intact, it was covered in blood). Electrik Panda realized that the girl was telling the truth. He had kind of thought all along that she was lying to him. Little girl pandas can not be trusted. Eletrik Panda then vowed revenge by saying, "I will have my revenge!"

The Plot developes...Does anyone care...

Adam

Greg (#1387)

Location: Portland, OR
Posted: 3361 days ago

I don't think there there is any 'inherently right' copyright term. This needs to be hashed out via open debate. Like this one.

Two things - I disagree with the extension of existing copyrights, since that is essentially reneging on the implicit existing agreement with the public.

Also, I disagree that any extension has no value for a creator new material. Clearly I have control of my product for a longer period, that product has more value NOW. If I want to sell my catalog to Perpetual Industries, Inc., I simply have a more valueable asset. An extension benefits both creators of new materials and those who have acquired rights to perhaps deceased creators.

greg

OverlordBill (#1197)

Location: ~2B, -4B
Posted: 3361 days ago

Copyright only serves to kill Kenes.

Don't worry about these things. When the situation gets bad enough, it'll just collapse. Those good at organizing protests will organize, and those good at waving signs and shouting will wave and shout and we'll all go to Woodstock 3. Pining about these things while they're not at CRITICAL MASS!!! (omg wtfuxorz) won't get anyone riled up. It's when your average lazy cubicle workers get annoyed in large numbers that things happen.

Peter Wiegand (#119)

Location: Washington, USA
Quote: "Just because it's aimed at a particular market means it's not art?"
Posted: 3361 days ago

Better get busy with the Syrup script, Max. Only 4 more years 'til I get to make my movie!

Xedium (#1159)

Location: Cornland
Quote: ""If you can't fix it, it ain't broke!""
Posted: 3361 days ago

At least patents aren't that long. Pfizer's really trying to overlap patents to keep their right to their products. But, look for generics coming soon.

Stuart Lamble (#1321)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional."
Posted: 3361 days ago

There needs to be a balance between the needs of the creator and the needs of the public -- that much is certain. There also is too much emphasis given to the "needs" of the creator at the moment.

I'd support a two level copyright system. Level 1 applies to the case where the copyright is owned by the same individual that filed for copyright protection: life of the copyright holder, plus ten years. I can see no particularly compelling reason why the creator should have control over the creation forcibly taken by society before death. Level 2 applies to the case where the copyright ownership is transferred to a corporation (or filed by a corporation), or another individual: ten years from the date of first transfer or filing. The creator has the right to terminate exclusive agreements if three months' notice is provided to the other party, regardless of any of the terms in the contract.

No filing? Ten years. No extensions beyond what has been laid out above.

There's probably a stack of problems with this proposal, but it strikes, I think, a good balance. Worst case: a creative work is in copyright for around 100 years. Average case is probably closer to around 50 years.

Jjuulliiaann (#1111)

Location: New York
Quote: "Religion is the Opium of the People --Karl Marx"
Posted: 3361 days ago

I've been thinking about this issue for a while. I think a ten year limit is a bit short, though. I think that copyrights should expire the day the author dies.

Queen Eve (#460)

Location: Dimensions at SanguinemDraconis.net
Quote: "Sanity is a gift; given at birth, lessened by maturity, and gone from us by the age of reason. --Kestral Lei"
Posted: 3361 days ago

I believe 10 years is too short as well.

In the current state of corporate America, 10 years for an artist to come 'make a buck out of it' would be just long enough for struggling writers and artists to see their works swallowed whole by big companies who would then make mega profit off of their idea and the originator getting left in the cold.

Getting to an appropriate and stable number is difficult and has many landmines in its path. While I don't like the idea of being able to hold a copyright indefinitely, I believe that any corporation who is actively building their finances off an original work should not have their livelyhood given away just because a date passes. Should Mickey Mouse's copyright end, I guarantee you that it won't be capitalized on the everyday artist of whom your article is speaking. He will be purchased and snatched up by those who can capitalize on his long-standing brand status and make some other corporation mega-rich.

The first thing, I feel, that needs to be done in the case of copyright extensioning is dividing brand status characters from other works. If your corporation wants to continue to capitalize on the image, the character, music or writing, it needs to have greater associations outside of the publishing, television, or filming industry. By turning an original piece into a brand icon, it is moving its impact beyond that of just television, music, movies and print. Therefore, more is at stake when a copyright ends.

If the work in question has not been molded into a brand icon, then then an overly extensive copyright does not make sense. It does prevent new ideas to spring from it.

In my opinion, I agree with Stuart. Copyright laws need to be elastic, taking into account the popularity and creator's continuing use of the work. And they need to be tiered, giving longer protection where needed and less protected where there is a lack of flourish and sellability with the creation.

Narain (#824)

Location: Los Angeles, right between civilization and a desert
Quote: "NI!"
Posted: 3361 days ago

Not being an artist of any sort, or having my livelihood depend on anything in which copyrights are in the least useful, I wouldn't object to having no copyright laws at all. Granted, I realize that there are many flaws with this, among them that it would never work, but in principle, let's have max make his money through some real work, not this artsy writing business. Oh why did he ever leave the honest world of Hewlett Packard...

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 3361 days ago

<sycophancy>
Heretic!
</sycophancy>

Cantrall (#26)

Location: New Orleans
Quote: "Anagrams with my name: Chancellor thirst rap, Anarchist perch troll, Ranch pro at hillcrest, Ill rorschach pattern, Cornstarch hitler pal"
Posted: 3361 days ago

The movie studios first went to Chicago after being chased by Edison, but that still wasn't far enough, hehe. Silly Edison.

Mockingbird (#1391)

Location: Polyhymnia Terra
Quote: "I prefer anarchy, but only under a strong & wise Anarch."
Posted: 3361 days ago

All works of the human mind belong by right to all mankind. But because we, the public, are such swell fellows, we sacrifice some of our inherent rights and give them to writers and inventors temporarily in the form of copyrights and patents. The writers, however, have not tended to respond with proper gratitude.

On a more practical note: Ten years is probably too short a time. Many writers depend on middlemen. The writer may need an extra margin of time to recover from the mistakes of inept middlemen who don't market their works properly. Thomas Jefferson thought that the term of copyright should be the half-life of an adult generation. This was nineteen years in his time. In our day, it's about thirty years. The Universal Copyright Convention requires a minimum of 25 years, once renewable. It's not very likely that we will live to see a copyright term shorter than this, even if we are lucky enough to get the term reduced from its present absurd U.S. and E.U. value of life+70 years.

Abolishing copyright altogether wouldn't be practical. The large publishers and distributers, who-- notwithstanding the progress in communication and paperless distribution that we have seen in recent years--will dominate the book trade for some years to come, would in the absense of copyright simply collude: by unspoken agreement they would refuse to interfere with one another's editions. Small upstarts would be driven out of business by underpriced "fighting editions". So in place of a statutory copyright, we'd have a de-facto "collusion copyright". I consider the statutory one to be the lesser evil.

Christopher Tolkein's experience in editing and publising his father's unpublished papers <i>might</i> be an argument for a "life-plus" term of copyright, but it doesn't justify life+70 years, or even life+50 years. And the other commentator's conclusion that, had the Lord of the Rings been <i>publici juris</i> by now, many of the unpublished Tolkein papers would never have been published, or "would have been swamped in cheap knockoffs and poor emulations" does not follow either. Depending on how the applicable law was drawn up, the unpublished papers might have enjoyed a term of copyright subsequent to publication regardless of the novel's copyright status. Nor does it follow that all imitations of prior works are "poor". The creative process works in many different ways. Imitation is one of them, and by this means both good and bad work can come into being.

Terrence McLean (#1393)

Location: Canada
Posted: 3361 days ago

I think that your ten years is out. If I read you right I have ten years to convince a publisher to publish my novel and then make all the money I will ever make from it. I think that is as unreasonable as what we currently have. I'm sure that there is a middle ground some where. I think that the creators life time is reasonable and if the author feels like you do then they can release thier works to the public domain when ever they want.

Are you or will you release Jennifer Government to public domain on it's tenth birthday?

__________
Terry
Friends don't let Friends Click Spam

The White Wall
http://whitewall.mcleanweb.ca

Queen Eve (#460)

Location: Dimensions at SanguinemDraconis.net
Quote: "Sanity is a gift; given at birth, lessened by maturity, and gone from us by the age of reason. --Kestral Lei"
Posted: 3360 days ago

That's a lovely idea, Terrence!

An advocate of the practice should be quite willing to uphold the practice. Therefore, Mr Barry, the question is to you.

Will you be relenquishing your own copyright to your books on their 10th anniversary?

Your public wants to know.

Nadia (#1395)

Posted: 3360 days ago

I found out about www.creativecommons.org a few days ago. It's a non-profit that offers a 'some rights reserved' option for copyrights, making the whole deal a lot more flexible while protecting original creators' interests to the extent said creators want. I haven't started sporting a cc license on my stuff just yet, but I'm looking into it.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 3360 days ago

I think a copyright of ten years is a nice idea, but I can't get past how annoyed I'd feel seeing some unoriginal, talentless person making money distributing my invention. I don't really think art belongs to society, I think it belongs to the person who created it. So, if I write a book, its mine until I decide otherwise. Everything else I create I own - just because something is labelled 'art', why should that mean I have it stolen from me after ten years?
Also, instead of leading to more creativity and ideas, if you relax copyright laws, people might stop coming up with their own ideas, instead preferring just to make money distributing the ideas of others.
However, this is probably all hypocritical coming from a person who has more stolen music than Imelda Marcos had shoes, but its the principle that counts ... or something...

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3359 days ago

Yamara... there's a difference in reprinting what already exists, and creating fresh crap based on the originals, outside of copyright. And with the rewritten editions, which were authorised, copywritten, and official, the franchise isn't exactly open any more. Those older versions have some significant differences in them which no longer make them compatible as it were.

Besides, the point wasn't about Lord of the Rings. That was just an example, one rooted in the authorised spin-offs which came about after Tolkien passed away. The point I was trying to make was that if a franchise is properly cultivated and not merely exploited, then it doesn't become such a big thing that the same people hold the copyright ad infinitum.

Give me some quality pipe-weed, Old Toby at least, and I may take up your suggestion.

Scott (#354)

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Quote: "Max Barry tastes like awesome"
Posted: 3359 days ago

I'd like to say, that some copyrights should be held up even against the person that originally created the material. I call this the "George Lucas law on copyrights." Meaning when an artists wants to re-imagine/re-work his vision in a way that is almost completely crapified when compared to their original source material, they won't be allowed to do so until thirty years after they die. Yes, you heard me correctly. HAN SHOT FIRST!! ::end the rant of a dork::

Scott (#354)

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Quote: "Max Barry tastes like awesome"
Posted: 3359 days ago

Better yet, make that they won't be able to do so until thirty years after 'I' die. :)

Mats (#1057)

Location: Turku, Finland, Europe, Earth
Quote: ""The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it." James Branch Cabell via Robert Oppenheimer"
Posted: 3357 days ago

Jjuulliiaann said:

"I've been thinking about this issue for a while. I think a ten year limit is a bit short, though. I think that copyrights should expire the day the author dies."

Not a good idea. People might get funny ideas, like killing the author so the copyright would expire.

Jjuulliiaann (#1111)

Location: New York
Quote: "Religion is the Opium of the People --Karl Marx"
Posted: 3356 days ago

Mats said:

"Not a good idea. People might get funny ideas, like killing the author so the copyright would expire."

I wouldn't mind if we had a few fewer authors on this planet... Well, no, maybe just the textbook authors, although no one really wants their copyrights.

Malkav11 (#1403)

Posted: 3356 days ago

Here's what I figure: copyrights should be active for as long as they are being used or until the creator is dead + no more than ten years. If the book's still in print and available, if the CD is still sold, or if you're producing derivative works, then you're good. If, on the other hand, you are a software company that's been sitting on your copyright for a decade since the game went out of print, are not offering it in any way shape or form, and have not begun development on a sequel, remake, or other similar use of the license...well, it should be on www.the-underdogs.org. ;P
(That being my personal pet peeve. If I can't buy it, who the fuck is being hurt by my obtaining it some other way?)

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 3356 days ago

There's a fly in the soup of your 'in print caveat Malkav11. With POD books becoming more common, and the technology being applied even to 'published' writers (folks who had their books printed by a publisher with a standard book contract), we may be on the brink of no book ever being 'out of print.' Just as a lot of musicians self-produce their CDs now (not small timers, cats that played with Miles have gone this route), authors self-publishing using print on demand technology can always come up with one more copy.

As the technology develops and gets cheaper, I expect an increasing segment of the market to go this way. It'll suck for guys like me who buy a lot of their books as remainders, because in a POD world, there is no remainder, only what is demanded is printed.

Yeah, a DaVinci Code gains an economy of scale over the current POD technology, but (and I'm only three years older than Max) in my working life, digital presses have taken four color process printing (and hexachrome too) from the province of long runs and big-spenders to something any medium size commercial printer has access to. Where I work, our HP Indigo gets everything under 375 sheets, because that's where the breaking point is, where it becomes more expensive to pay click charges than to run polyester plates (that didn't exist when I got into the game) and hang them on our Heidelberg SpeedMasters.

Look at what's happened with PCs and their accessories. Or digital cameras. My wife's camera, I think we paid less than $300 for it, and it takes higher resolution pictures than any digital camera did a few years ago. As recently as the Y2K scare, a camera of that caliber was a $4000 proposition that only professional photographers with deadline pressures that exceeded the time it takes to develop film would buy.

But all these innovations are derived from relatively strong intellectual property rights in the patents area. Yeah, big corporations act like assholes, so do crowds at soccer games and any other large group of irrational people.

The idea of Disney getting an extension on the copyright for characters who's authors are dead AND past the expiration of the previous law on the basis that a public domain Mickey Mouse might be used pornographically, well, really... With the internet, you can take George Carlin's suggestion for what to do with Mickey Mouse and millions could see it before a Disney employee even noticed it. And if you're clever, they'd never find you.

But Max's proposal goes to far the other way. Maybe he doesn't care if 'Syrup' becomes public domain in four years, but maybe Maurice Sendak would like to have some control over 'Where the Wild Things Are' while he's alive. I love that book too much to say he can't have that.

That fable of the baby competition Max posted, with the 'open' copyright, if I understood, I could legally reprint and SELL that story as long as I kept it intact and included the credit due. But the very possibility of that makes it completely ridiculous to think I'd make anything off printing it or otherwise reproducing it.

And as long as your evidence is better, I don't think it even matters if you applied for copyright protection. Anything you create (at least by U.S. law) is your intellectual property. The only thing a registered copyright is good for is the occasion when two fellows claim they were there first...

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 3355 days ago

This has nothing to do with the topic, but I found something on IMDb. Check it out!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0382679/

See if it reminds you of something...

Jason (#1398)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "It tastes like the urine of satan after a hefty dose of asparagus."
Posted: 3355 days ago

Oh I care Adam, I am anxiously anticipating the next volume of the Panda Chronicles

The Daily Llama (#1409)

Location: Australia
Quote: "A life? Cool! Where can I download one?"
Posted: 3355 days ago

Agreed.

I believe there was some talk of patents and copywrites up there, someplace? Well, an interesting story, a guy in Australia patented 'the wheel', as it wasn't patented it yet. Which I love! Being a guy who was just proving a point, he didn't push for royalties of every device using wheels.

Hi-larious.

Malkav11 (#1403)

Posted: 3354 days ago

I don't see how print-on-demand technology is a fly in the ointment of my argument. My argument is that a creator should benefit from their creation so long as it's being actively employed, and they're still alive. My main thrust is to keep things alive and available, or at least new things based on them coming out. Doesn't matter that much to me whether this is because the rights-holder (who, in my opinion, ought properly to be the person or persons responsible for making it, not a large corporation that merely provided the grunt work. Not necessarily a reasonable position, but I don't like corporations much.) is making it available or making stuff based on it, or whether they've let it sit and thus it's freely available for anyone to do whatever with. But I figure losing your copyright on it'd be a good spur to keep it out there in some form.

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 3351 days ago

Someone's gone mad :-)

Airborne (#1471)

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Quote: "C 1/501 Artic Airborne Infantry "Geronimo!""
Posted: 3320 days ago

Copyright not by the length of life, but rather make each author make an intellectual corporation. The intellectual corporation CEO would be the author, all right to him. If he was to die suddenly, profits would automatically go to listed dependants who could become CEO. Certain rights would begin to fall away from these surrogate CEO's after a few years of inactivity, but they would never lose the right to copyright their own 'authorized' versions of the work.

If a author whores his book to a publishing company, they become CEO, and the author becomes a member of the board. The CEO will have to pay the boardmember(s) royalties for holding the copyright without producing any new editions after 7 1/2 years, and lose their rights to copyright after 20 years of inactivity.

Symbols such as the cast of disneyland will be copyrighted against NEW CREATIVE ENTERPRISES producing new works as long as the corporation exsists, but they will be taxed for this, and will lose their exclusive rights over older works, though these works may not be modified.
----

The basic idea, every man is automatically a corporation from birth, everything automatically copyrighted outside of quoting and intellectual papers that ask not to be.

A man should have rights over his works till death, and his wife and small children, and in odd cases, mature dependants that are hospitalized or significatly retarted.

The corporate structure allows publishing company's to do their thing as ususal, cept is discourages long periods of inactivity. And if the AUTHOR, a CEO of a intellectual corporation, becomes a CEO of a corporation like Disneyland, the two become one, but a new series of do's and don's would come into effect, with time limitations on the original works.

I can't see how this would upset the tolkein arguements or likewise piss the mickeymouse people off.

Traveller (#1939)

Location: Amphetamemeia
Quote: ""Surely you didn't mean select THAT button. That button is for serious people.""
Posted: 3165 days ago

Not sure if this has been recommended yet, but I'd really like to see a form of copyright where the author/inventor/designer can set an action to take place at the time of their death, sort of like a will. If the author has checked "Release to the general public free of copyright", or "Release to the general public with these X conditions, etc" then it's available to the public and can't be claimed. Thoughts?

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