More on copyright

Brian, in the comments on the last post, decries the fact that we are giving individual rights to corporations. He may have a point in that, but I want to clarify where I stand on the copyright issue.

I do believe in copyrights, and I do believe that even corporations that create artistic works, or have purchased the copyrights from an individual who creates artistic works should be allowed some limited time of copyright. It’s simply a matter of making it worth their while to work at creating the works and making a profit off of them, whether it be a corporate entity or an individual. I don’t have a problem with corporations or people making a nice tidy profit off of the creation of a work. (In fact, since corporations are made up of individual stock holders, it’s all really about the individuals who are assuming the risk of publishing their work, and whether or not it’s a good thing to allow them the opportunity to make a healthy profit from their risk.)

Now, how long is that limited time? I do not know. I haven’t done economic or feasibility studies on that, so it could be the 95 years that it is currently, for all I know. I doubt that it’s that long, but I’m not going to take a stand on that, because it would be uninformed.

No, my problem is with retrospective extensions. Let’s use Brian’s Disney example. In 1928 Walt Disney created the Mickey Mouse character. At the time it was created, copyright was, what, 70 years? (I may be wrong, I’m basing that on the fact that copyright was extended, mostly on the behalf of Disney in 1998) Now, if Congress can grant copyright extensions “for the purpose only of “promot[ing] the Progress of Science and the useful Arts”, then you can’t extend the copyright of Mickey Mouse, because he was already created. You can’t possibly be promoting the progress and creation of works that have already been created. That is logically impossible! Walt created Mickey Mouse at a time when the copyright period was 70 years, and he accepted those terms by publishing his creation at that time. The 70 year term was enough to convince him that the creation of this character would be worth it to him, and it certainly was. Retroactively increasing the term has nothing to do with promoting the progress of the useful Arts, again because that progress had already been made, which automatically makes it outside the constitutional limits placed on Congress in this area.

There are other aspects to the situation, but this, to me, is the core point about recent changes in copyright law. There is no defense of this that could possibly make any sense. Changing the rules so that you can convince people to do something that they’ve already done is a ridiculous position to take, yet we’re supposed to believe that Congress was doing exactly that when it extended existing copyrights. Insane.

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