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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Thu. May 22, 2003

Continued Copyright Consternation, Redux

Continued Copyright Consternation, Redux – While I’ve complained about how some voices are not included in the copyright debate again and again and again, I’m now beginning to see … they just don’t work that way.


Peanut Gallery

1  Al wrote:

Though we differ in our views on copy protection, I have to admit your series of posts has gotten me to reconsider my opinion. I had failed to consider the inherent contradiction that occurs when consumers, rather than creators, are in control of the process and thank you for pointing it out. But, and it's a big one, there is certainly a middle ground between the Lessig proposal (50 years + a buck) and the constant legislative extensions of copyright. I would think that the 'life of the creator' is a reasonable middle ground. Sure, this may impact negatively on an artists estate, but it's my belief that copy protection should be limited to protecting the creator specifically, rather than striving to extend that protection to whatever media conglomerate happens to have purchased the rights. Providing one agrees that the intention of copyright is to foster creativity, it's logical to view it as a moot point once the artist is dead. As far as Bennett goes, I can't really blame Lessig for his failure to engage. The entire tone of Bennett's comment was disrespectful and obnoxious. Fer cryin' out loud, Lessig argues in front of the Supreme Court and is in the forefront of a movement with broad appeal... if nothing else, his credentials entitle him to a measure of civility sadly lacking in Bennett's commentary.

Comment by Al · 05/24/2003 02:06 PM
2  PhotoDude wrote:

“I had failed to consider the inherent contradiction that occurs when consumers, rather than creators, are in control of the process and thank you for pointing it out.” I think there's also a widely held misconception that it is only Evil Corporations who own copyrights, and who cares if they get screwed? The reality is that the vast majority of copyrights are created by individuals, and they will suffer under “One Rule For All” far worse than the corporations. Completely lost in this debate is the fact that if you stomp on Disney because of their commercial stranglehold on creations like Mickey Mouse, you also equally stomp on the individual artists trying to sell their wares at your local arts fest. One Rule For All. “But, and it's a big one, there is certainly a middle ground between the Lessig proposal (50 years + a buck) and the constant legislative extensions of copyright.” Thank you, Al. There certainly is a lot of middle ground. And you're nearly the first person to show up and listen to the voices there. Everyone else is listening to the voices on yon hill to the right (record companies, movie producers, Jack Valenti) and yon hill on the left (Open Source, information wants to be free, Lawrence Lessig). Within the mainstream part of the public debate, there is no middle ground. Either all creatives will never make another dime as their works are all stolen on the Internet (hill on the right), or we face a future where all copyrighted content is controlled by a half dozen heartless corporations who will strip us of even fair use rights (hill on the left). Furthermore, I'd simply love to see one well-heard individual voice in the debate who earns their living solely from their copyrighted creations. Not from a lawyer drawing a salary from Sony, or one collecting a paycheck and tenure in academia. And, trust me, I'm not suggesting I deserve that role. I'm just saying, find some people who live and die daily in the trenches solely on the basis of their freelance copyright creations, and add their voice to the mix. They are the ones who often point to both sides, often with great frustration, and say, “extremists.” Neither side likes to hear that (more on that below). But that's where the middle ground is. It will have to come from somewhere other than the current extreme voices in the debate. Because, from one side, I hear that 14 years of copyright ownership is plenty, then into the public domain, while the other would like terms for a century, with strict control over all methods of distribution. Clearly, both sides are locked in on The Big Win. And I find neither of their positions close to acceptable. Compromise (middle ground) is not an option. Certainly not one being currently discussed. Here's an idea from the middle ground regarding the desire to refill the public domain: instead of penalizing people with a tax, how about giving them a real incentive instead of a penalty. How about a one dollar (or $50, or whatever) tax credit for copyrights released to the public domain? With a Republican controlled tax slashing government, how hard do think that would be to sell? A lot easier than a new tax, and it would, in my opinion, be more likely to actually move work public. “I would think that the 'life of the creator' is a reasonable middle ground. Sure, this may impact negatively on an artists estate, but it's my belief that copy protection should be limited to protecting the creator specifically, rather than striving to extend that protection to whatever media conglomerate happens to have purchased the rights. Providing one agrees that the intention of copyright is to foster creativity, it's logical to view it as a moot point once the artist is dead.” I went over all this in The False Binary of Copyright, but I strongly agree, the extensions of copyright that have been granted for one reason or another over the past 27 years (anything after the Congressional Copyright Act of 1976, which is where I draw the line) are excessive and based purely on corporate motivations. There is no need for my estate to retain copyright to my images for 75 years after my death. I'd earlier proposed 33 years after death, so that my children (one generation) get the benefit of my work (as is true for those who manage to convert their “work” all into cash), but I would at least be willing to consider an ironclad “life of the creator” copyright. I would also at that time advocate finding some way to separate the copyrights of individuals (terms based on individual lifetime) and those owned by corporations (what is a corporate lifetime?). There is a massive inequity in treating me the same as Sony or Disney. There has got to be a remedy for that. But I'm none too hopeful, when the voices from the middle ground remain unheard. “As far as Bennett goes, I can't really blame Lessig for his failure to engage. The entire tone of Bennett's comment was disrespectful and obnoxious.” Valid points don't always come in dulcet tones. I can't speak for Richard, but I can tell you, I am far more frustrated than I can put into words on this issue, and therefore, it often comes out pointed, spikey, hard ... angry. Regardless of Richard's tone, he made a valid factual point based on personal experience, and Lessig didn't just “fail to engage,” he apparently deleted that viewpoint entirely. “Fer cryin' out loud, Lessig argues in front of the Supreme Court and is in the forefront of a movement with broad appeal... if nothing else, his credentials entitle him to a measure of civility sadly lacking in Bennett's commentary.” If you're going to step to the forefront of the public debate, even create a weblog to which you add comments, one certainly can't expect to keep the shine on their shoes. It isn't a courtroom. And, frankly, I sense the other side of what you're talking about ... I sense a certain condescension and exclusion of views, because, well, he's an expert. On salary. At a university. Perhaps that's just my perception, but I've had it for a while. I know he's has done a lot of good work. I think Creative Commons is a prime example. I think he fought the good fight on the Eldred case. But many times, he vexes me. If you have either decided to make yourself the leader of a movement, or even if you've become one by fate, does that not bring an obligation to be inclusive of viewpoints? To at least listen? To at least let them remain existing on a page? Perhaps not. It is certainly Lessig's site to do with as he pleases. And his movement, apparently. And that's why you see steam emit from my head on occasion. I remain frustrated nearly beyond repair, and were I to leave a comment at his site, it might likely have the same tone. So instead I vent my frustration here. A tree falling in a forest ... an angry tree ... does make a sound.

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