Monday, February 06, 2006

Copyright is copy wrong

I've been doing some thinking lately about copyright law, and I've begun to think that it's been extended one too many times. Last time I checked, works registered after 1972 (or so) are protected for the life of the author plus fifty years. Naturally, that hasn't prevented heavy-hitters like DC Comics and Disney from getting Congress to extend their ownership of Superman and Mickey Mouse, respectively, which should have expired a long time ago.

What's the point of protecting work so long? I understand and agree that the creator of a piece should be able to exclusively profit from it, but should her children? Her grandchildren? Life plus fifty can be an awfully long time; the thought of having to wait more than a century for an idea to enter the public domain seems to me a little silly.

Also, how does constantly extending copyright protection serve the public? Sure, leaving DC Comics in charge of Superman allows the company to continue to profit from him, but doesn't it also lend itself to a certain stagnation of ideas? Why would DC Comics bother seeking out fresh new talent when they can continue to churn out the same old stuff about the same old superhero? There are countless wanna-be comic book artists out there; I say let Superman move into the public doman so that the comic book companies have to give those artists a chance. Besides, a fresh take on the Superman story might be in order, and allowing the chap from Krypton to become public property might be just the ticket.

This would be an interesting discussion for The Bitter Quill. (Hint, hint).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw an interesting comment once that I thought was brilliant. You can copyright an idea for $100 for the first ten years, but you have to renew this every ten years, and each time the cost goes up a factor of ten. This way, if an idea is still a major source of profit a number of years down the line, the increasing cost to maintain copyright will eventually ensure that the idea becomes public domain once the stakes are too high. This seems fair to me.

Under this system for example, a certain mouse born in 1928 would by now cost Disney $10 billion to renew the copyright in two years.


1:42 AM  

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