Your views on the duration of copyright?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TheNewNo2, 22 Apr 2015.

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  1. TheNewNo2

    TheNewNo2 Member

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    Someone pointed out to me that the Green manifesto suggests that copyright terms be limited to 14 years. Now, obviously it's a manifesto, which means it's a wishlist, and it's the Green manifesto, which means it's about as likely as seeing Isambard Kingdom Brunel come back to life to name the first IEP. But, it set me thinking (and arguing on twitter).

    I'm quite involved with Wikimedia Commons, a media repository used by Wikipedia, and we only accept content which is freely licensed (anyone can use it for any purpose, without having to ask the creator). Under international law, any sufficiently creative work automatically gets copyright. This (in principle) prevents anyone else from using it, selling it, building upon it, or even distributing it, without your express permission. The standard copyright term is what we call PMA+70, post mortem author plus 70 years, ie the person who created the work has to be dead for 70 years before it falls into the public domain. This leads to the slightly ridiculous but all-too-common situation where photos from the 1890s and early 1900s are still in copyright.

    Copyright was originally intended to enhance creativity, as before copyright whenever someone made a work (eg a book) others would copy it and flog it more cheaply. The original copyright term in the US was 14 years, allowing the creator 14 years of exclusive rights to a work. Copyright at this point had to be applied for. Over the years copyright laws were gradually increased, and the ease with which things became copyrighted did so too. In large part this was led by companies such as Disney and record labels, who wanted to keep works such as those by Elvis within copyright. International laws vary somewhat, but PMA+70 is now fairly standard, as is that works are automatically copyrighted.



    So, my question at the end of all of this, is how long should copyright be for? To my mind 14 years is too short, and PMA+70 ridiculously long. Pulling a number out of the air, 30 years sounds about right to me. An artist creates a work, and then they have 30 years from which they can profit from it exclusively, after which it falls into the public domain and anyone can use it. However, some creative people have been telling me that it's unfair that anyone else be able to ever profit off their work if those people had nothing to do with creating it.
     
  2. TheKnightWho

    TheKnightWho Established Member

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    There's a great video explaining copyright from CGPGrey.

    [youtube]tk862BbjWx4[/youtube]
     
  3. DaveNewcastle

    DaveNewcastle Established Member Fares Advisor

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    Any erosion of the term (the duration) of Copyright in a published work will erode the revenues which accrue to the Publishers, and that will reduce the funds available to invest in and to promote, new, speculative or expensive, productions.

    It costs a lot to invest in a product launch (especially one with global marketing and promotion) and costs a lot to support creative people during the creative phase of a production. A significant proportion of that investment comes from the proceeds of previous successes by the publishers.

    Additionally, any reduction in the term would impact on the ability to benefit from a lifetime's work into retirement, for the creative person and their family.

    For any creative person who disagrees with the extended terms and wishes to see shorter periods of regulation over what can and cannot be done with their work, then there is no compulsion to enforce any Copyright for the full term permitted by law - it is, as the name suggests, a right, but not an obligation. (There isn't even any obligation to apply any restrictions to a creative work, a creator is at liberty to produce it without any restrictions on its use).
     
  4. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I'd agree that PMA+70 is a ridiculous length of time.

    I'd say bringing copyright law into line with patent law, where something is only protected for 20 years before becoming publicly available, is probably sensible.

    As for "protecting investment", developing new medicine is a damn sight more investment-intensive than writing a song, and the big pharmaceutical companies aren't in danger of going bankrupt any time soon.
     
  5. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Good video, and exposes the hypocrisy of the Disney company.
    I'd agree with this, and I agree with Arctic Troll who makes very good points too.

    Sadly the 'right' and wealthy dinosaurs like Cliff won't let it happen.
     
  6. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    loved the video and the next one that came up which explained the problems with first past the post voting.

    In my view there appears no justification for maintaining copyright after someone dies
     
  7. DaveNewcastle

    DaveNewcastle Established Member Fares Advisor

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    There are certainly different opinions on the term available for any assignments or rights available to the creator of a work, but it's hard to see how one could claim that there is "no justification" for a term which extends to support the estate (usually the spouse) of a deceased creator of original work.

    I can identify clients and neighbours who can be compared in this way:

    - some enjoyed a regular salary while working and a pension in later life which benefitted their spouse for 10, 20 or even more years after their death, permitting them to live in some sort of comfort in their years of greatest care needs.

    - some had no income for years while they worked, and when they did find a publisher, they took the opportunity to assign their rights over so that any income future might be available after death to support their spouse.

    You may disagree, but it is very hard to support the view that the longer term has "no justification".

    The commercial argument I gave above has been criticised from the point of view of large, multi-national media corporations. A criticism I am sympathetic towards. But I really wanted to raise the difficulty facing the much larger number of much lower-earning individuals or SMEs (the one-person, part-time, committed, enthusiastic, innovative but uninteresting to the corporate world creative person). They might dedicate a disproportionate amount of their life to their passion for art / music / film / software / dance / design / literature / fashion, etc., and might be lucky enough to find that one of the small independant publishers (decreasing in number!) is willing to promote their work. Some in that lucky position will find that after some years, some public interest in one of their many works develops and it begins to earn money for them and for their publisher.

    My interest in the creative sector is engaged at exactly this point in the trajectory of a successful work. How are the sudden receipts of large revenues to be channelled? Surely we want to see a mix. A mix in which the successful creative person (who has laboured without income for years) and their dependants (especially if they outlive the creative person) will benefit financially from that success, and also in which the publisher, (if an independant then probably also a SME driven by passion rather than profit) will benfit, either in terms of raw revenue, or in repayment of advances and promotional costs, or in very successful cases, allow future investment in other artists' development and works.

    In short, I am concerned that the criticisms of long term rights based on a consideration of the exploitation of rights by large corporations will eclipse the same debate based on the equally important opportunites afforded to the individual artist and their dependants by an abilty to receive a small percentage of sales over a lifetime or slightly more if there is anyone left to receive it. I'm looking at the hundreds of thousands of people who receive a few hundred or few thousand pounds a year for their work which was unpaid at the time of creation.

    As for the restrictive elements of long term Copyright, then I do agree that in a few high-profile cases it can be perversely unproductive. To illustrate, I have custody of some unique media of one of the worlds most popular musicians ever, but one of the many copyright owners in the work refuses to permit its distribution. No one benefits, the public are deprived of the opportunity to watch the performances, and the other musicians and composers are unable to earn any income.
     
  8. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    There may well be a case for treating music and the printed word differently from each other with copyright. I seem to remember that the clamour for extending European rights from 50 to 70 years after death first came from the estates of certain well-known authors, the name of A.A. Milne being prominent. Somewhere in my collection of 'Bookseller' magazines from 1988 onwards, though much pruned owing to uxorial pressure, chapter and verse could probably be provided, but please don't hold me to that.
     
  9. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Isn't the proposal actually saying 14 years after death? In which case I really don't see a problem with that as it still covers the artist for their entire lifetime. Apologies if that is not the case.
    And of course we also should look at the policy in the wider context of the Green manifesto which would give the artist a citizens income anyway, so it isn't like they would have nothing if the copyright did run out while they were alive.
     
    Last edited: 24 Apr 2015
  10. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    A very good post IMO. I would suggest copyright should certainly extend for the length of the owner's life and for some years afterwards as a minimum.

    It seems to me that any lesser restriction could lead to considerable injustice. Say for example, copyright was 20 years, as someone has suggested. It's not at all unknown for - for example - an artist to record a song, but the song flops, but then suddenly 20 or 30 years later something happens to make the song very popular and it starts selling in reasonable quantities. Imagine how you'd feel if copyright only lasted 20 years and you were an artist in that situation! Indeed, it's not beyond plausibility that large companies would take advantage of that by deliberately looking for potential hit songs (or other works such as books or paintings) from just past the copyright date, which they could then release/use in advertising/etc. and try to make large profits from without needing to pay anything to the original artist. Even worse - imagine if you are still alive, and immediately upon expiry of copyright, other organizations start using your works to promote political views that you violently disagree with, or - if you are a photographer, start using your works without your approval in a pornographic way and you can legally do nothing about it... Seems to me that copyright extending beyond a person's lifetime is there for good reason!

    On the other side, being a copyright holder does put you in a monopoly position, and I think you could make a good case for saying that that gives you a responsibility to ensure that your works can reasonably be used by other people if they so wish. So arguably there should be some legal provision to prevent copyright holders from simply hoarding their works and unreasonably stopping others from benefitting from them. However, I have no idea how you might do that in a way that remains fair to individual artists.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    I've just downloaded the Green manifesto. The only references to copyright I can find in it are these:

    (Sorry if I've just destroyed the purpose of this thread ;) )
     
    Last edited: 24 Apr 2015
  11. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I would have thought that copyright applying for the life of the artist would be a reasonable compromise. This ensures that they can benefit throughout their life but it doesn't drag on and on and on (as someone mentioned above why should something created in the 1900s still be copyrighted today?).
     
  12. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Why should it not? I could pass on something physical to my children that I produced which may have value. Why should I not be able to pass on something non-physical?

    I can see a very strong argument for it to be "in perpetuity".
     
  13. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    I think you'd need something more than that, otherwise it's a little unfair on an artist who dies soon after they produce something. (In an extreme case, think of someone who's very ill and produces something specifically in order to pass it on either to their family or to some charity).

    Besides, if copyright expired on death... how long would it be before some poor artist gets murdered - with the main motive being that the killer wished to exploit the artist's work for free?
     
  14. tony_mac

    tony_mac Established Member

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    Dave's already mentioned it, but you can sell your rights while you are alive, and they are obviously more valuable if they last for a longer time.
    (In this example, very much more valuable!)
     
  15. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    So to take an extreme example should the Shakespear's works still be copyrighted? (I actually don't think 'copyright' was a thing when he was producing material but you get my point I'm sure).

    Okay perhaps not 'on death' perhaps 'on death and x number of years after'. But +70 as is fairly standard at the moment and seems ludicrous to me. That could mean that a song written by a twenty year old today might not be out of copyright until 2145! Surely that's a bit silly?
     
  16. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    If there is someone to inherit that copyright, I can't see a fundamental reason why not, though I can see practicality kicking in.

    Perhaps a compromise would be that after a certain period (maybe 100 years?) non-profit use is permitted without permission, but not profit-making use?
     
  17. SS4

    SS4 Established Member

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    I would reduce it to PMA + 18 years: enough to provide for the creator and to give any children they may have had a good start in life. I do agree with works having automatic copyright

    Ironically enough you can use copyright to let people share your work under the same conditions as you gave them - the GNU General Public Licence is a good example of so-called copyleft.
     
  18. Darandio

    Darandio Established Member

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    I don't know it yet, but today I wrote what will be the song of the decade once it's released next week. Unfortunately, I also don't know that I will be run over by a bus tonight.

    So, as there is no justification for copyright after death, this song is going to make millions for anyone that wants a piece, but it won't look after my young family?
     
  19. DaveNewcastle

    DaveNewcastle Established Member Fares Advisor

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    Most of the arguments for Copyright reform were rehearsed in the Gowers report and again just 5 years later in the Hargreaves report. I recommend reading both of these independant reports into the issues.

    A lesser-read and academic report specifically looking into the question of term extension which Gowers had explored so thoroughly makes a very intersting companion to those two heavyweight reports : The Economics of Copyright Term Extension by the LEGC in 2007. Of interest is the correlation between music industry investment in A&R (Artist & Repertoire) and revenues from existing material.

    The question of Shakespeare does raise an interesting discrepancy and that is in the differences in time taken to develop a work, to 'sell' it and then to realise its monetary value varies significantly between art-forms. For example, a commercial tune, a costume design or a console game might pass through all these phases quickly and become of only residual value after a year or two, while a novel, TV series or stage play can take many decades to complete its life cycle to that same state of its residual value.

    One solution widely discussed a few years ago was that the revenue from an extended term of licensing could be returned to the state as a means of supporting the cultural and creative sector though its councils (Arts Council of England, Craft Council etc) and funding streams (Heritage funds etc).
    There is also an argument that some recipients of major Arts funding such as the Royal Shakespeare Company could be taken out of the Arts funding stream and moved to a more commercial funding model developing tourism and vistors to our cultural and heritage assets.

    Whatever the views of people on here, we have sen in the last few years a rapid loss of expertise and capacity to invest in new art (in all art-forms) following the collapse in the number of small publishers. This led to the report by DEMOS in 2011 called "Risky Business" which sought to understand why the Creative Industries are such bad investment choices. Interestingly, that report found that there was no evidence to support that view, and that investment in creative industries is less risky than several other sectors. Much of that financial stability comes from the term of Intellectual Property rights. Sadly, we haven't managed to translate that understanding into any significant level of commercial investment in the nation's creativity.
     
  20. higthomas

    higthomas Member

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    I think perhaps the best solution might be it lasting for life or x years (I'd say 70), whichever is longer. It means no-one has it go out of date whilst they're alive, but also means people who die shortly after creating works can leaving it to their children, whilst preventing things staying copyrighted for 100 years plus.
     
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