back to article UK 'copyright czar' Edmund Quilty quits as Blighty's Director of Copyright Enforcement

Britain's unofficial "copyright czar", Edmund Quilty, is moving on. Probably the most influential civil servant you've never heard of, Quilty has served as the Director of Copyright Enforcement and Policy at the UK patent office for six years, far longer than the typical stint for a career bureaucrat of two years. "We can …

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Trollface

Well done!

Getting hired by a large IT corp in 3, 2, 1…

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Manchurian Candidate.

"This is a profoundly conservative view of the world; like "zero growth". The thought of actually growing the pie so that members of future generations get paid for creating and selling their stuff didn't seem to be part of his thinking. Perhaps in a new-look IPO, it might be. "

It won't be. Expect Google to decide who they want to have hired and relay their orders via Rachel Whetstone to your government.

So expect more of the same.

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Are Quilty's "skills" portable?

And if so, is there any area of the British economy in need of mindless and misguided trashing?

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Trollface

Re: any area of the British economy in need of mindless and misguided trashing?

Nope. Job already done.

Thanks Dave.

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Re: Copywrong

So if I spend time researching and writing an article for The Register, should I not own it?

Should I not have the ability to agree with The Register that they will pay me for it? And once they have done, should someone else decide to reproduce it on their own site, without paying either me or The Register for it, potentially making money by running adverts next to it, why should that be permitted?

I honestly can't see how believing that I put some effort into some work, and deserve to be paid for it, is "crap"

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Re: Copywrong

>So if I spend time researching and writing an article for The Register, should I not own it?

No. How can you own an Article? What does that even mean?

Even copyright doesn't grant ownership rights, only a restriction on reproduction to everyone else for a limited time.

This is one of the foundational myths that constantly blight any sensible discussion on copyright.

We have ownership for scarce resources (like land and property) because multiple people cannot sensibly share them in a lot of cases therefore arbitrating between people exercising their freedom. This is most certainly not the case for music, writing or pictures.

In any discussion on the subject, I would outlaw any use of the words "property" (as in IP), ownership and theft. They confuse an already contentious subject.

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Re: Copywrong

"Strings of 1s and 0s."

I dislike this line of reasoning; just as well to wonder how people can own arrangements of letter of the alphabet or, more basically, of fundamental particles, such as make up a CD or a boat or a house.

Ownership is a complex issue, philosophically and indeed legally. The biggest problem with copyright and 'IP' in the digital age is that the laws governing it are adaptions of those applied to scare resources, such as land or a car or what-have-you.

'Big content' want to have their cake and eat it too; they want IP treated as 'real' property in order to claim that it can be 'stolen', but simultaneously not as real property, in order to prevent the consumer 'owning' it.

To be sure, it's a tricky one and that is precisely why it is such a shambles at the moment. The unfortunate part is that the people making the rules (governments) are strongly influenced by one side (the content providers), leading to an unbalanced legal framework.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Copywrong

Your money is held as 0s and 1s in a database somewhere.

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Paris Hilton

"get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

I wonder how every other company outside the "IP" industry manages to sell their stuff without needing a state-protected monopoly?

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

I am not an IP industry, I am an author. I need to be able to own what I produce and to make money from it. I also need to know that those who steal my work from me are breaking a law and that I can get redress in court. Copyright gives me ownership of what I create from the moment it is created until I licence or sell my copyright, in which case someone else (my publisher or a magazine) has that protection.

Copyright came in because the starting point of a 'thing' that is a poem or song or story or article was recognised to reside in the creator, who at that point was right royally ripped off as soon as anyone else could get their hands on it. Someone else reaped the reward and writers literally starved in their garrets.

The only place where buyers can set their own prices in an auction. Otherwise, the producer decides what he or she will flog the 'thing' for. Get the price right, it sells, get it wrong, it doesn't. Market forces work just as effectively in a world with effective copyright.

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

> Copyright gives me ownership of what I create from the moment it is created until I licence or sell my copyright

No it doesn't! It gives you some privileged priority over others for a period which superficially look like what you get as an owner of property. They are not the same.

> Copyright came in because the starting point of a 'thing' that is a poem or song or story or article was recognised to reside in the creator

Copyright, at least in the UK, was originally a way of restricting the dissemination of information to certain privileged few (as in as a Royal favour). These days we understand it as a public favour that we grant to authors to try to encourage them to produce works. It is a legal privilege which we grant on the understanding that the pot of public knowledge is encouraged to grow because of it by allowing authors a monopoly on monetisation for a time that makes it worthwhile doing it. In the US at least, this is explicit in the constitution.

Authors may well have an emotional attachment to their work and might wish to restrict the usage of it. Make no mistake though, this is not the intention of copyright and never has been. And the balance between the private advantage and the public good is far from fair at this point.

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@Oh Homer: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

"I wonder how every other company outside the "IP" industry manages to sell their stuff without needing a state-protected monopoly?"

Industries, enterprises, and businesses that "sell stuff" are only able to "sell that stuff" because they own it, and they own the equipment to produce. It's not really possible to "sell stuff" if people are allowed to steal that stuff at will, or steal the equipment needed to produce that stuff irrespective of whether they simply want to produce that stuff themselves or if they already produce that stuff and want to eliminate a competitor in their line of business.

Additionally, every form of ownership is a "state-protected monopoly" - even you enjoy a "state-protected monopoly" in the right to "monopolize" your possessions. You do, even if you don't realize it have a right to monopolize the use of your car, your house or flat, your clothing, your computer, etc etc.

You also have a "state-protected monopoly" regarding your labor and your right to decide how you want to dispose of your labor and yet another "state-protected monopoly" by virtue of which you can enjoy the proceeds of your labor according to your own whims, fancies, and caprices - i.e. slavery has been outlawed even if you think that certain forms of it should be brought back.

Remarks like yours are simply ignorant and show no understanding of the points at issue..

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Re: @Oh Homer: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

> Additionally, every form of ownership is a "state-protected monopoly" - even you enjoy a "state-protected monopoly" in the right to "monopolize" your possessions. You do, even if you don't realize it have a right to monopolize the use of your car, your house or flat, your clothing, your computer, etc etc.

Inasmuch as the law is involved in both situations, you are right. However, the underlying problems for which we have laws are different.

There is no overriding social problem that copyright solves in the broad sense. As a society, we could exist satisfactorily without it. As anyone who has existed in the human world for long realises, we need laws concerning physical property since the reality of scarcity is with us, moreso as population grows.

With copyright, at least in the situation in the US (as it was originally conceived), we made a bargain with artists that was codified into law. This is a very different situation. That artists have not known a situation without copyright, this has seemed to become akin to some natural right which has always existed and as such take liberties with that privilege. Be assured, that it is a privilege and we, the public, reserve the right to revoke it as we deem fit.

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

Answer is they don't. There isn't a single business that doesn't rely on some form of regulation to help manage competition. Everything from zoning laws and licensing, all the way up to trademarks, copyright and patents. Get big enough and you can buy politicians and have actual laws on the books protecting you. At the top of the range you can own an entire govt., use the apparatus of the state to assist you and even in some cases, get a nation to go to war on your behalf.

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Headmaster

Re: "because they own it"

Two apple growers may both own identical crops of apples, and yet both manage to sell them, without needing to ask for state protection to prohibit the other grower from selling his apples. Exactly the same applies to any other real property.

And no, real property ownership is not a monopoly, of the state protected variety or otherwise, because the essence of a monopoly is not about what you own, but about what you prevent others from creating independently for themselves, purely because it happens to be similar to something you own.

It should also be noted that the "IP" industry is the only one in which monopolisation is not illegal (e.g. the Sherman Act).

So again I ask, why should those in the "IP" industry be afforded this state protection?

And it's not like there are no examples of people producing ethereal things like software without resorting to such methods, and still managing to get paid handsomely for it, so clearly it is possible.

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Re: "steal my work"

As I said above, the concept of 'ownership' is tricky. Ownership is nothing more than a social construct because there is no distinct physical trait that one can say constitutes 'ownership' (as opposed to possession) for all time.

Because ownership is defined by social convention (law), it is quite possible that you may own something one day and then not own it the next, due to a change in the law. At one point in history, people could be owned, as slaves. In the UK, going to sleep on 30 July 1834, I might have owned a slave. Upon waking the next morning, I would no longer own that person.

What changed?

Not me, not my (former) 'possession', and not the relationship between me and that 'possession'. What changed was social convention - the coming into force of the Slavery Abolition Act.

More recently, in NSW, Australia in the first half of the 20th century, a land owner had rights to petroleum found on that land. After the commencement of the Petroleum Act (1955), all petroleum was owned by the crown.

Similarly, even if you own something by law, the rights that ownership grants may change. Thus, one day I own a block of land and have exclusive rights to that land, including access. Following from the above, after the commencement of NSW Petroleum Act (1991), I have lost the right to prevent access to my land by companies drilling for coal seam gas*.

So, in the absence of any clear, self-evident and perpetual definition of ownership and the rights of ownership, we must look at property laws and IP laws (copyright, patents, trademarks, etc...) from the point of view of the purpose; what we are trying to achieve.

In the US, in the late 19th century, property rights were developed with the aim of spreading the population and colonising new areas. Doing so meant more farming, enterprise and trade. That can be clearly seen in the requirement to improve the land; the government wanted the land developed so property rights were the incentive to do that. Once this had happened, property laws changed, preserving remaining areas as public lands. (That's all simplified, of course!)

We have to ask ourselves, then, what is the goal of IP laws?

The answer is simply that the rights conferred by such laws are there to encourage creation; of technology, or literature, of media, of products. All IP laws need to be constantly re-evaluated to make sure that they promote that aim.

It's misguided to question whether someone 'owns' a piece of writing or a 'string of 1s and 0s' or a particular chemical structure (e.g. a drug) or the knowledge of a new process for producing sulfuric acid or steel.

The question we need to ask is, is the assignment of rights to those things beneficial to society as a whole? If so, what rights should be assigned and under what conditions?

That is the core issue of IP law.

* - I'm not trying make a statement for or against CSG or 'fracking', just using a current issue (in Australia) as an example to illustrate my point.

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Re: "steal my work"

To summarise my horrendously long post, 'ownership' is nothing more than a bundle of rights indicating what control can be exercised over some thing and by whom.

Copyrights and patents are the same - a bundle of rights indicating what control can be exercised over some thing and by whom.

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Re: "because they own it"

except they areno the same apples they are identical apple.

if i own a copy of a book and you own a identical copy of a book they are not the same book, they are identical, from you argument i can own the printed copy but no the words???

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Re: "because they own it"

To grow apples you buy a few bits of machinery, land and plant a tree.

Technology on the other hand is very expensive to develop and produce.

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Re: Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

"Make no mistake though, this is not the intention of copyright and never has been."

Um, I'm sorry skelband but you really don't get it. I suggest you read up on the history of copyright and particularly the French contribution.

An artist's work is considered an extension of the individual, they can do what they damn well please with it. These moral rights developed in parallel with economic rights but are paramount. The very grudging (and you really do sound quite bitter - did an artist steal your girlfriend?) history of copyright that you parrot here is factually incorrect.

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

I am sympathetic to your plight, and do find your use of copyright to be entirely justified and reasonable. I do have a problem with copyright law, but you are not that problem.

Where I do see a problem is that copyright - in duration, scope and enforcement - has grown out of hand. Further, the 'enforcement' part comes at a social cost.

In duration, of what benefit to society is the ridiculous term? Seventy years for music. Life plus ninety years for individual works. The term in the US is even longer, that term is the de facto standard online to be legally in the clear. Does knowing that your great-grandchildren may still inherit the rights to your books effectively provide an incentive for you to write any more so than a shorter term of perhaps ten to twenty years would? This ridiculous term is counterproductive: Far from encouraging the production of new works of value, it serves only to provide legal barriers that lock much of popular culture away and deprive creators of material they can draw inspiration from and adapt into new forms.

Ideally I should like to see a shortened term, but I cannot envision that happening. There is simply too much money involved, and where there is money to be made there will be lobbying. It was only last year that the term for music was extended from fifty to seventy years as a result of desperate lobbying to retain copyright on a very lucrative decade of musical history. After all, the Beatles might stop writing new music if they lose their copyright protection.

In scope, the big blame to be placed here is upon the Berne convention and the automatic copyright. This is somewhat unfortunate. A well-intended solution to a real problem, but it also exposes everyone to a legal nightmare where every action must be scrutinized to make sure no copyright is inadvertently infringed. We've got the orphan works proposals now as an attempt to solve this, but their solution is legally messy and no less complicated. It has reached the point where infringement is such a common occurrence as to go unnoticed.

But of most concern is enforcement. Copyright infringement is a very, very easy act with modern technology - so easy that a lot of the time, people don't even realise they are doing it. Every school in the country has students swapping USB sticks of music, and a lot of workplaces too. People copy-paste images without a second thought, and google image search is now the world's leading source of clipart. In those who know they are infringing, trying to keep sites down has become a game of whack-a-mole - they appear as fast as they can be closed, often operating from countries where they are legally untouchable. Even without the websites, p2p networks thrive - and there is always sending files to friends via IM or even old-fashioned email. Modern technology makes a mockery of copyright law, and the only way to solve this would be draconian enforcement and, censorship and restricting access to technology. The US DMCA and our own implementation of the EUCD start down this path by banning 'circumvention devices,' but their efforts are pathetically ineffectual - it's only a matter of time until we start seeing calls to mandate ISPs start actively filtering infringing content through packet inspection, or require the blocking of 'illegal' file-sharing protocols. Given the choice between enforceable copyright and an open internet, it's no contest for me: I'd like to see a shorter-term opt-in-limited copyright policy but, if that isn't an option, I'd take no copyright at all over what we have now.

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Re: "steal my work"

In the US in the early 19th century, landowners actually tried to restrict the settlement of land. That is to say, people who'd bought huge expanses of frontier land, then claimed it was theirs and other people had no right to live there. There were conflicts, and the law firmly backed the landowners - but it was the squatters who ignored those "property rights" who won in the end, and they were the ones who settled the frontier.

Current copyright law is something like US property law circa 1820. You can write a song, and 70 years later, some soulless corporation that's bought the rights from your children can sue someone else for singing a song that sounds similar. That system is doomed: the creative space within which new works can be made is not infinite, and it's getting ridiculously crowded right now. (Examples: Coldplay, Men at Work, Pink - all fine, creative artists who've been sued for copyright infringement.) Both the duration and scope of copyright protection are insane, and desperately need to be reined in.

Also, pedantry: Slavery was abolished within Britain in 1772. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 mostly affected the colonies.

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Re: Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

This thread is a beautiful example of how copyright discussions often pan out, because copyright "reformers" have a pathological evasiveness when it comes to enforcing copyright. They think the Unicorn (or kittens) will get it. The story is about an Enforcement Director who didn't believe in copyright enforcement. The poster raises the lack of enforcement as the most urgent flaw with the current regime. And you respond with a long ramble about terms, etc.

You *do* actually mention the three "dimensions" of copyright: scope, duration and enforcement. You just don't like the enforcement dimension. Whenever enforcement comes up, activists invariably change the subject. I expect this is because there is a strong consensus against extending the scope copyright to new areas (like software APIs), and a questionable case for extending the duration of copyright terms. Not much controversy there. At least not from me.

But without enforcement the other dimensions are meaningless. You can pass laws 1,000 year terms, and they don't matter a jot if they can't be enforced.

When you *do* address enforcement it's to say that while bad guys use technology for infringement, good guys shouldn't use it to enforce their individual rights. This gives you the straw man your (a priori) argument needs: "Given the choice between..."

However what your conclusion ("I'll take no copyright") leads to is a world in which nobody has any privacy. Because once you've thrown your right to own digital data, then anyone can own you. You've erased the individual.

http://m.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/31/blame_silicon_valley_for_the_nsas_data_slurp_and_what_to_do_about_it/

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

Andrew,

Your comment is rather disingenuous and unfortunately you are also missing the point.

The history of copyright is different in all countries.

In England, it was all about the Royal grant of privilege. It morphed into something that we recognise more these days as what it now is.

In the US, it is all about the expansion of works for the common good: the constitution says so.

In France, they take a different view.

The reality is that most people these days would agree with the principle of all those ideas. We all want art and we all want an enriched public domain for further art to build on (all art is derivative to some extent).

Why copyright is contentious these days has very little to do with those ideas.

The public at large allow themselves the burden of copyright because they think that a larger good is served regardless of what that good is. It is increasingly the case that that burden is unreasonable as the body of art in the human realm is increasing but the pot of exploitable art on which new art is based is not because of copyright term extension way beyond anything that is reasonable. In short, the common good is not being served. Disney is the biggest and most obvious demon in this respect. They jealously guard what they regard as their "property" while pillaging the public domain for practically everything that they have ever produced.

If they had to pay for the rights to Grimm's fairy stories (which were taken from the public domain by them anyway) at current industry rates, there would be no Cinderella, no Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, no Beauty and the Beast...the list is endless. If they had to pay recompense for all the music in Fantasia, it would probably never have been made: it was never a massive success for them being rather too high-brow for the viewing public at the time.

Although some *do* doubt the merits of copyright as a principle, most others debate the length of the period.

The debate has only really come about since the abuse of copyright period inflation by the US and the companies lobbying for it and their subsequent attempts to export it to the rest of the world.

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

> But without enforcement the other dimensions are meaningless. You can pass laws 1,000 year terms, and they don't matter a jot if they can't be enforced.

Laws are unenforceable if they do not have general public endorsement.

I know it *seems* like we live in a fascist state sometimes, but the we still at least pay lip service to the idea that we are governed by consent. A law that does not have popular consent is doomed to failure, and due to the term abuse by political lobbyists in the US and the beast that is termed DRM making lives difficult for people that just want to read their books or watch their DVDs, that popular consent is increasingly lacking.

Laws only codify what we generally consider to be the public good. In copyright these days, there is very little sense of public good, and a lot of sense of everyone getting royally shafted by big business. The problem is that the small-scale writer or musical performer/composer is getting swept up in this wave of dissent. They stand to be the biggest losers here.

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Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

> This thread is a beautiful example of how copyright discussions often pan out, because copyright "reformers" have a pathological evasiveness when it comes to enforcing copyright. They think the Unicorn (or kittens) will get it. The story is about an Enforcement Director who didn't believe in copyright enforcement. The poster raises the lack of enforcement as the most urgent flaw with the current regime. And you respond with a long ramble about terms, etc.

The issue is how do we fix what we perceive to be the problem. The debate actually mirrors some of the purported problems with patents. Notwithstanding the fact that patents suffer from different problems, the options on the table seem to be reform or abandonment. Given that reform seems to be resisted at every turn by the key players that might stand to lose, the only option is to say the system is *so* broken, we must abandon it. I don't know if that is more or less achievable than reform, but it is a natural reaction of exasperation in the part of those that are fed up with the status quo.

Personally, I'm not sure that copyright has gone down that path to the point of irretrievability. The main point of contention is regarding term length. The problems with patents go much deeper and in a number of different ways.

As regard the issue of enforcement, as with all laws enforcement can only go so far. As pointed out elsewhere, if a law is in such disrepute that almost everyone breaks it, then the law is an ass. The US found out belatedly with alcohol prohibition, with the general consensus that it was an entirely unfair and unworkable law. It couldn't ultimately survive. However, before it went, there was large-scale legal crack down involving a ton of money, violence and loss of life. All because someone wanted a drink. That would never happen in the case of copyright would it? Surely not. Unless you look at examples of Megaupload in Australia: violent, over-the-top armed police with helecopters raiding someone's home to confiscate computers and arrest people for the "crime" of copying files. I expect more of this in the future unless something changes.

As for the unicorns and kittens, what on earth are you on?

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Re: "steal my work"

@veti

I appreciate your correction about the abolition of slavery in the UK. It was my understanding that 1772 marked the abolition of the slave trade and the 1833 law was for slavery itself but I am far from a scholar of British history and the dates don't matter to my point - the laws that made slavery illegal meant that people were told they no longer owned things that they had prior to the laws.

As for the early American land on the 'frontier', that's a very complex bit of history and the specifics as to what really happened in the intersection of land privately leased from native owners, land claimed and sold by the government and land taken by squatters and held by force, are less important (for my purposes) than the goal of legislation like the Homestead Act of 1862.

In my view, this was similar to the purpose of 'IP' law, which is to provide an incentive to create new items/services/knowledge that have been deemed to be for the public good.

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and comment - it seems I got my dates messed up but the main point still holds: as there is no independent concept of 'ownership' the rights (and responsibilities) one has, under law are what is important.

That's a more interesting and useful discussion as it avoids the endless back and forward about whether someone 'owns' something or not.

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Re: Re: "get paid for creating and selling their stuff"

In each of your last two posts, your argument rests on an entirely artificial choice. To avert ‘The End of the World’ we must { abandon / destroy / impair } the creator’s legal rights.

This typically arises when the real argument is flawed – it’s a rhetorical technique used to hide the real argument or agenda. And one doesn’t actually need to know a great deal about copyright to identify this is a false dichotomy. There is no apocalyptic or existential threat to ‘freedom’. Rights industries are struggling to be heard as it is. And in the history of technology and rights this has never been a zero sum game.

To make your case for abandoning or impairing creator’s legal rights you should explain the case for doing so rationally. You could try and show the terms of long-term economic benefits of your alternative, and submit them for examination. (The IPO tried to do this and failed) These calculations would have to show the impact upon a nation’s GDP of successful rights-based markets. You would also have to show why the benefits of strong individual rights – for example social mobility – are no longer important.

Perhaps studying why apocalyptic narratives (eg, War on Terror, Climate Change) have failed would also be useful.

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Excessive copyright term

If the copyright period was reasonable (no more than 20 years) then fewer people would be in contempt of it.

Big companies (DISNEY and others) get the copyright term extended whenever one of their moneymakers is nearing the end of its copyright period (the 1936 Mickey Mouse film is still in copyright!!).

What I would like to see - copyrights owned by the original author(s) 20 year term - all other copyrights 10 year term - in both cases from first publication. (As politicians are so easily bought by "Big Business" the chance of this happening is zero.)

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Re: Excessive copyright term

> Big companies (DISNEY and others) get the copyright term extended whenever one of their moneymakers is nearing the end of its copyright period (the 1936 Mickey Mouse film is still in copyright!!

On think I never understood is why people thing this is this such a "bad thing"?

There is little public good (it's not a cure for cancer), it's hardly a cultural game changer which will change the world, and nothing is stopping people developing another mouse-alike cartoon, provided they don't slavishly copy it or infringe trademarks.

Why should people have a right to copy (i.e. get for free) what someone else spent time producing, just because it is digital?

We seem to be entering an age where youngsters are far more interested in getting other people's old stuff for free rather than learning how to create something themselves - cultural stagnation starts here ...

P

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Re: Excessive copyright term

Or every time Disney get an extension on copyright law - the same period extension applies to the original work it was based on.

So Disney doesn't get to rip off Dickens/Hans Christian Anderson etc while protecting "their" creative work.

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Re: Excessive copyright term

> Why should people have a right to copy (i.e. get for free) what someone else spent time producing, just because it is digital?

And why should they not? At what point in your view, should any work enter the public domain? Would you feel guilty performing Romeo and Juliet without paying something towards the estate of Shakespeare?

> We seem to be entering an age where youngsters are far more interested in getting other people's old stuff for free rather than learning how to create something themselves - cultural stagnation starts here ...

All creativity is derivative. You think that Mickey Mouse was the first example of a cartoon mouse? Does not the design of the character draw on work from previous artists? Why are we, these days, so obsessed with clinging onto the old? We should be moving forward not standing still. Having people holding onto historical "art" like a grumpy old man suspiciously counting his coins is the picture that I see here.

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Re: Excessive copyright term

This is a bad thing because Disney et. al. are pissing in the pool for the entire species. OK, there needs to be a reasonable period to enable creators to cash in on their work; then the work (book, film, cure for cancer, whatever) needs to go into the communal pool of knowledge so that the rest of humanity can work on it.

That's how we -as a species- advance; by building on the knowledge of our forebears.

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Headmaster

Re: Excessive copyright term

Disney is perhaps not the best example to use in an attempt to justify the claimed entitlements of "creators", given that nearly everything it has ever "created" was blatently copied from folk tales and other works.

Mickey Mouse is indeed trivial, but the problem is not the significance of the material, it's the principle, the establishment of precedents which could so easily be applied to far more significant works.

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Re: Excessive copyright term

' I never understood is why people thing this is this such a "bad thing"?'

It's not necessarily a 'bad thing', although it's odd that, although ALL the people involved with making, for example, Snow White, have been dead for years, but thanks to skilful lobbying, the Disney Corporation can still make money from it.

The real 'bad' thing here is that so many other works are caught up in this. books, articles, plays, even films, produced at the same time as Snow White, that have no financial value to anyone, and therefore are impossible to obtain legally (nobody is going to print a new run of a novel written in 1928 that sold maybe a few thousand copies before being discontinued, and by an author nobody today has heard of) will now, because of Disney's (and other rights owners') actions to extend copyright, not fall into the public domain.

No rights owner will publish these works, as there is no guaranteed financial incentive (it's a long time since publishers were willing to 'take a chance'), certainly no rights owner will go to the trouble and expense of gifting these works to the public domain, so they will sit in copyright limbo, perhaps until all physical copies are lost.

In the Good Old Days(tm), these books would have been released to the public domain, digitised and added to the Gutenberg Library, but while copyright persists, this cannot happen.

So it's not just about cartoon mice and such irrelevances which can still be purchased from the rights owners. It's about all that early 20th Century cultural heritage which will be lost so that a few popular items can continue to make money for people who weren't even born when they were created.

Sorry, got a bit 'enthusiastic' there, but it's a shame when we protect the owners of a cartoon mouse at the expense of so much more.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Excessive copyright term

"All creativity is derivative"

But the bit that's original is what we value. That's why we have IP, to encourage more of it. This is an argument of convenience - often trotted out by people who wouldn't know originality if they tripped over it.

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Bronze badge
Childcatcher

Re: "the bit that's original is what we value"

If I build a house from bricks, 1% of which I stole from you, should I rightfully be entitled to keep those bricks and call the end result "my house"?

Copyrighted works are houses built with many people's bricks, few of whom are ever compensated or even credited.

Is that fair?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: "the bit that's original is what we value"

@Oh Homer:

If a work of art significantly imitates the work of others, then they are compensated. cf. George Harrison. Or the thousands of samples cleared every year.

I see you're keen to seize the moral low ground in this discussion. "Because an unfair thing happens - I'm OK with more unfair things happening." In some way you think wrongs make a right.

How about considering a different approach? Remember that from the act of creation to sale, a long value chain may profit from a work of art. If you remove copyright, then that chain will continue to profit - with one exception. The author will not. Copyright is the mechanism that keeps the people in the rest of the chain honest. If you're truly concerned about "fairness", you need to ensure that access to justice for the individual has been ripped off is cheap, easy and effective.

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Silver badge

Re: Excessive copyright term

> But the bit that's original is what we value. That's why we have IP, to encourage more of it. This is an argument of convenience - often trotted out by people who wouldn't know originality if they tripped over it.

Copyright discourages the use of protected works, even for derivation.

That's the whole point of copyright. In the US, they have to have fair use exceptions to try and tweak what is an overly-broad principle to try at least to unlock some of the potential of copyright works. Even then, the threat of being dragged through the courts to have to prove fair usemake most people rather not bother with the hassle.

The social bargain is similar to patents in this respect: we the public agree that we will leave it alone for a while so that the artist/patent holder can monetise it, after which we revert to the non-copyright status where the work is fair game for derivation, inspiration etc.

However, at least in the US, that bargain has been corrupted to the extent that the public is getting a raw deal for their reserve. Let's not forget that artists and musicians are the losers here as well. Most culture for the last 100 years is now locked up in the hands of a relatively few publishers and music companies. That's not a healthy social condition.

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Bronze badge
Headmaster

Re: "the moral low ground"

Surely the moral low ground is the argument that theft is perfectly acceptable, as long as it's not a significant theft. The idea that it's immoral to refuse to recognise that this stolen property legitimate belongs to someone else, just because the thief successfully used it for some productive but self-serving purpose, is itself morally inverted, and actually quite illogical.

Certainly there are cases where people are compensated, but there are many more where they aren't, and as you noted this compensation only applies to "significant" use, which again begs the question; how much theft qualifies as acceptable? Indeed there are even cases where clearly significant use is not compensated, due to legal technicalities.

I think you need to reconsider exactly who is ripping off whom in this scenario. The idea that person B is allowed to monopolise a derivative of person A's work, but person C is not allowed to do likewise to person B's derivative work, based on some unquantified formula that legally defines an acceptable degree of theft, is hypocritical, nonsensical and morally repugnant.

Better by far to simply accept that all such works are unavoidably derivative, and thus cannot be legitimately monopolised.

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Silver badge

MaCaulay on Copyright

Read the prophetic speeches on copyright given by Baron Macaulay, author of such works as "The History of England", before the House of Commons over a century ago :

http://homepages.law.asu.edu/~dkarjala/opposingcopyrightextension/commentary/MacaulaySpeeches.html

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Silver badge

"Nevertheless the UK set about maximising every opportunity to dilute or abolish copyright protection - and has lobbied assiduously for similar changes at a European level, say sources."

What, like extending the copyright period in line with the US's insane and corrupt Mickey Mouse laws? Doesn't seem like any definition of dilution that I've ever heard of.

I'm all for creators getting paid; but frankly if rights-holders take the piss then the general population will take the piss right back.

If products are easily available for a reasonable price, everywhere, for everyone, then the majority will pay.

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Anonymous Coward

@moiety 22:17

"If products are easily available for a reasonable price, everywhere, for everyone, then the majority will pay."

Ah, the old "Give it to me for the price I want or I take it for nothing" argument ...

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Re: @moiety 22:17

Yep, and it's an argument Valve has proved valid with Steam

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @moiety 22:17

"Ah, the old "Give it to me for the price I want or I take it for nothing" argument ..."

Yep, you've got it. The penny has finally dropped.

The customer defines value. Period. The CUSTOMER. Never the supplier. Unless they have a monopoly...in which case they can screw you.

Oh, just like copyright...in which case, they DO screw you.

Which is why more and people loathe it.

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