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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Sat. May 17, 2003

Continued Copyright Consternation

Continued Copyright Consternation – Sometimes, you just have to let the anger and hyperbole flow off your fingertips, and hit “Save.” You have been warned.

“Fifty years after a work has been published, the copyright owner must pay a $1 maintanence fee. If the copyright owner pays the fee, then the copyright continues. If the owner fails to pay the fee, the work passes into the public domain. Based on historical precedent, we expect 98% of copyrighted works would pass into the public domain after just 50 years.”

Yeah, because individual copyright owners like me probably won’t pony up thousands of dollars in our retirement years (for a photographer, a lifetime of images would be thousands of dollars). And it won’t be because we chose to let the images to enter the public domain (as we can … right now!), it will be because we can’t afford any other choice. Also because it appears no one in this debate seems to take seriously the beating individual copyright holders will take from the same bat they want to use on corporate copyright holders.

That’s the proposal of Lawrence Lessig, perhaps the primary voice in this debate, and he wants you to contact your Congresspeople to help him get it passed. Me, I just want to scream. But I’ve been here before.

There’s hardly a topic that frustrates me more. So much that I sometimes wonder why I bother writing about it, since it has no impact. I wrote about Lessig’s proposal before in much less heated terms in Taxing the Creators, followed up with Authors and Inventors Ignored, and then talked about how The Salaried Dictate to the Freelance. They were posted here, and though I’ve never done this type of thing before (nor am I likely to again), I also e-mailed them to the principals in this debate.

Why? Because I just don’t see the viewpoint of individual artists being represented by anyone in this important debate. If I did, I wouldn’t impose on the inboxes of people I don’t know, and I would certainly feel a lot less frustration.

But I might as well have been singing in a Siberian shower for all the response it got, so why do I even bother writing about copyright, as I have for years? Gee, maybe it’s because it is my livelihood, the way I earn income, and I get just a wee bit peeved when people decide I don’t have a right to it, or need to pay more to retain it. And I think I speak to a point that is being nearly totally ignored, as the effort to reign in very real corporate copyright abuses tramples all over individual creators like me.

In reviewing what I wrote earlier this year, I think that Noah put it best: “The ethic of openness and sharing is a great one, but somehow that got mutated in a lot of people’s minds into the idea that it should be the users deciding what’s open, and not the artists [...] But more than the right to earn a living at one’s own work, there’s something even more fundamental involved here – good old fashioned respect.”

Artists? What are those? Only Big Evil Corporations own copyrights, so let’s slam ’em all! That “good old fashioned respect” is just so 1900’s. Get with the future, pal! Why don’t you respect the users who want your stuff for free?

Well, here’s your future, pal: if you succeed with your “information wants to be free” campaign, you’ll find you get exactly what you pay for. If the day comes that I must prepare to eventually pay a dollar for every single Pixel Pile I post here (almost 1300 just in the past 2.5 years) in order to retain its copyright when I’m retired, I’ll simply stop publishing them here.

And that’s what you’ll get for free: nothing.

So by all means, do continue to ignore the voices of individual copyright holders in your quest to control the very real issue of corporate copyright abuse. Make no efforts to discern between the huge variety of mediums that can produce copyrighted works: “To Kill A Mockingbird” equals Pixel Pile #1255 equals Mickey Mouse equals Microsoft Word. Keep the discussion amongst lawyers and politicians, and uphold the failure to include individual voices that merely make the problem more complex to solve.

And if you succeed, enjoy your 75 year old Mickey Mouse pictures.


Peanut Gallery

1  Matt McIrvin wrote:

Well, your earlier essays managed to convince me. I suppose that counts for something.

2  Orb wrote:

It seems I have spent the last half of my life shrieking about copyright issues, and I have gotten nowhere. I think somewhere along the line I gave up. I also think you may have "fired me up" about it again. Thanks!

Comment by Orb · 05/18/2003 01:16 AM
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