back to article 'Don't break the internet': How an idiot's slogan stole your privacy...

"I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority that if you type 'Google' into Google, you can break the Internet. So please, no one try it, even for a joke. It's not a laughing matter. You can break the Internet" - Jen, The IT Crowd For 15 years internet companies have been waging a war against any kind of laws that …


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  1. phulshof


    Ah, the good old ACAP discussion again. Where did I read about that? Oh yes:

    ACAP hardly brings anything new to the table, and nothing useful. Hardly anyone uses it, so why should anyone wish to invest the time and resources to implement it?

  2. Jim Lewis

    Minority report? see Person of Interest

    For a more relevant example of what the Govt's new project will likely bring see 'Person of Interest'.

    Perhaps not as watchable as Minority Report, but probably closer to science fact than fiction and closer to being realised than we might wish to believe.

    1. LosD

      Re: Minority report? see Person of Interest

      "Person of Interest" is probably the most ridiculous show I have ever spent a minute on. Just the spoken intro is a remarkable piece of unintentional comedy. I almost though it was supposed to be real comedy, but no, they actually take it seriously.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      lets be honest

      We all want our cake, but we don't like the consequences of eating it. So in some situations I accept that sometimes you have to compromise.

      What I don't like is the fact that the uk proposes to take what they want when they want. If they want to record my emails, sms etc then they should write to me and ask my permission. I have the copyright to what I write and should be able to charge a fee.

      In the case of any organisation that wants to snoop on you regarding crime, if they find nothing against you they should be made to contact you and tell you that you have been investigated. Councils for instance would then be less likely to snoop on spurious claims if they knew they could be held to account.

      Finally, what I do is no one else's business unless I want to share it.

      1. Eddie Edwards
        Thumb Down

        Re: lets be honest

        Is this wilful ignorance on your part? No one is proposing to store all your emails and SMSes. The information that will be stored is who you emailed and who you SMSed. I'm not sure you can claim copyright on that data.

        I enjoyed the article but now I'm wondering if Orlowski is making the same categorical error as you are in relating privacy and copyright in this way.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: lets be honest

          @eddie edwards - If I write an email / SMS I can claim copyright, but that's rather irrelevant I think. I would in any case not sell the content of my emails / SMSes. The real big no-no is "The information that will be stored is who you emailed and who you SMSed". There is no justifiable reason for this data being retained at all in a way that is personally identifiable.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: lets be honest

            Copyright on an SMS? Probably not as they are too short, and there is no real creative act taking place. Email would probably depend again on the length / creativity in it. (IANAL)

            1. Dave Bell

              Re: lets be honest

              SMS too short?

              Creativity not seen?

              Justice is blinded.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: lets be honest

          You've obviously not worked for the security services have you if you believe that content of email will not be stored. It's niave to think this is all it will be.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: "We all want our cake, but we don't like the consequences of eating it"

        "Privacy and copyright are two things nobody cares about unless it's their own privacy, and their own copyright.". Indeed! It seems that people want their own cake/privacy/copyright closely guarded, and yet also want to be able to eat other people's cake/privacy/copyright.

        I think the biggest dissonance here is that everyone has data that they want to be controlled by privacy laws, but relatively few people have created anything that's covered by copyright (with the vast majority of copyrighted works being owned by big corporates). On the other hand, almost everyone wants to consume created media that's covered by someone else's copyright, but very few people want to consume vast amounts of other people's private data (in effect ii's basically governments and corporations who want to do that, not private people)

        Hence while I agree with the general gist of the article that 'property rights' are essential for privacy, the key imbalance is not going to go away. If the first step in the process is to create property rights on the internet (in itself not a bad thing), the real-world result is that corporations will assert their rights on all their owned copyrights while they and the governments will continue ignoring everyone's rights to their private data. It's got to work the other way around, first step has to be we implement laws such as the proposed EU one where I have full rights over all my data.

        No doubt Google, Facebook, the governments etc will cry foul and claim that giving me full rights to track, alter and withdraw my data is technically impossible and/or too onerous. Well, screw them, if it was something they wanted to do they have always found a technical solution and they have no problems spending gazillions on data farms so we know those are just excuses.

        1. JimC Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: few people have created anything that's covered by copyright...

          Not true of course :at least under UK law everything you create is covered by copyright, even emails and forum postings. Lets take the reg as an example: from the terms and conditions

          "8.2 You retain all your ownership, copyright and other interests and rights in your comments but by posting any comments on our Website you permit us to use, modify, alter, edit copy, reproduce, display, make compilations of and distribute such comments throughout our Website."

          But what has happened is that people have been trained by an unholy alliance of 'big advertising' and bizarre political theorists not to value their copyright, or indeed anyone elses.

          So big corporations really don't much copyright on the internet, at least under UK law. However the political activists would like you to think they do, because that suits their agenda, and 'big advertising' would like you to think that real people don't own copyright, because that suits their agenda.

          But the truth is that (again in the UK at least) when you upload your home made video to Google/YouTube you have copyright in that, and in a just world then Google would pay you a fair share of the advertising revenue it generates. But really for that to work you need strong artists rights management organisations, and you'll notice that such organisations are at the top of both big advertising and political activists hit lists...

        2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: "We all want our cake, but we don't like the consequences of eating it"

          Individuals own their copyright and negotiate it away through license or contract. Computer programmer's sign away theirs by contract in exchange for a full-time salary, just as many contract writers do too. The contract or license doesn't change the philosophical basis of the law and ownership though.

          The answer to Big Bad Corporations "owning" individuals' copyright and exploiting it unfairly, is to have better choices when an individual goes to market. Richer, broader, more diverse markets benefit the creator. Choices are good - see the choices Adele made, for example.

          Because (c) enforcement is so expensive online (as well as ineffective), only bigger companies can afford to do it - which tilts the playing field even more to larger players. One positive step would be to fight market consolidation, another would be to make enforcement easier, so smaller companies can afford to do it too.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lets be honest

        Its not so much what information is held, it is WHO is allowed access to it. Your local council perhaps?

        If more than one person has access it is no longer private.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lets be honest

        You're a slave to society, and society is run by the government. Privacy and content rights applies only to those on equal grounds. Unfortunately we are not on the same ground as those in power.

        Establish a better government system and ensure society itself isn't one big jail, then we can talk personal rights and privacy to governments.

  3. Graham Dawson

    You seem to be arguing from an invalid position regarding copyright. The law already stands: materials are copyright the moment they are created. There's no need for the increasingly repressive and unworkable new copyright laws currently lobbied for as they are solving a problem that doesn't exist, attempting to extend the meaning of copyright to places it was never meant to go, or attempting to snatch works from their owners so they can be handed over to the state or huge copyright mills.

    Enforce the laws that exist rather than creating new ones. Of course that leaves copyright as a mostly civil matter in the UK, which is apparently an undesirable outcome for some people.

    Conflating the copyright issue with personal privacy is a non-starter as well. Our "traffic data" is not a copyright problem and making it one opens up all sorts of problems, not least being who actually gets the copyright on that traffic data - the person it is recording, or the entity that made the recordings of that person?

    In addition it's been established by precedent in the UK for centuries that we have the right to freely move about without interference from the government or its agents, under any name, without unjust challenge. It's been a bit battered recently but it's there - and it applies to everything we do, not just wandering the hills and dales. This ancient freedom establishes a right to privacy far more robust and flexible than the EU-inspired human rights bullcrap, which is so full of caveats and exceptions that it might as well not exist.

    Not that any amount of legislation matters a jot when the government is intent on ignoring it anyway. Stop making new laws and enforce that which already exists.

  4. A J Stiles

    Ownership of data

    The idea that we own every piece of data about ourselves, if taken to its logical conclusion, means that criminals effectively have a right not to be caught, if they refuse to sanction the use of data they own by the police to catch them.

    On the other hand, any of us could suddenly be declared a criminal .....

    This is a much bigger issue than you think, whatever you think.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best analysis I have read for a long time.

  6. El Presidente

    More evidence of Google Lobby™ in action ?

    "Privacy and copyright are two things nobody cares about unless it's their own privacy, and their own copyright"

    Freetards rarely create anything so even if one were to explain the fundamentals of ownership to them - even them owning their own stuff - they still wouldn't understand and would probably side with Google under an anti-copyright banner as a matter of 'principle'.

    Twisted logic but that's freetardism in action.

    The only privacy freetards care about is their ability to hide their IP address.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Big Brother

      freedom? the UK ... we have the right to freely move about without interference from the government or its agents...

      I've often wondered what would happen if I just walked past Immigration control, especially when returning from within the EU, calling out "It's OK, I'm a British citizen, so the Queen wants you to let me pass freely, without hindrance." By never having enough Border Agency staff on duty, the Agency are effectively creating a hindrance to my "rights". Most other countries are more respectful of arriving people, be they visitors or returning nationals!

      On the other hand, you would just have a longer wait for your hold luggage.

      1. Cunningly Linguistic

        Re: freedom?

        Not been to the US much then?

        The land that no shoed person shall enter,

        I wonder if they got the idea from the Muslems?

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: freedom?

          Glass houses, stones, etc. The UK is hardly a shining beacon of freedom, anti corporatism, or a small non intrusive state. The reason is because like the US the government sucks and in both places many people with a brain and conscious fight against the insanity. The problem is people having both is a tiny minority of the general sheep herd.

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: freedom?

          will say thought the hour plus lines even for citizens to get in the US for stupid security theater is beyond retarded. Homeland Security eh? Glad to see they have become just another department to defend the corporations. People are just here after all to buy stuff.

          1. Shakje

            Re: freedom?

            Since when did being part of a minority movement translate to being good? When people use the term "part of the herd" or "following the herd" it really pisses me off, because it's clear that instead of actually assessing whether or not they are right, and giving other people the reasons why they might be wrong, they're just happy justifying their position by saying it's a minority position.

            Just because you follow majority consensus doesn't mean you're right, but it does tend to apply more this way than the other (e.g. evolution, shape of the earth, heliocentrism, age of the earth, and so on). Sure, minority opinion is right some of the time, and that's when it really has to be fought for, but it should stand on its own merits, and it's never because it's a minority opinion that it is right, that's just incidental. By suggesting that this is the most important thing about what you're trying to say, it just looks like you don't have anything else worth arguing.

            Let's look at it the other way, what if not many people have the wrong conscience? Or have a miswired brain? But those that do agree with your viewpoint. Now for goodness sake try and convince me otherwise, because I'm quite happy to listen when people have something to say.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: freedom?

              >When people use the term "part of the herd" or "following the herd"

              TMZ, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen the sheep know these names.

              Citizen United vs FEC, debt over %100 of GDP, the complete gutting of the already weak Frank/Dodd bill not so much.

              At least here in the US it has been amazing and sickening watching the education level of the population decline so rapidly in one generation. My point is not I am so much better for seeing the total horse crap destructive greed and lies out there. I am just disgusted so few other people see it and don't care. FFS Western Civ nearly collapsed a few years ago due to fail leadership and even that didn't get the people to pay attention for long.

        3. Rodrigo Rollan

          Re: freedom?

          "The land that no shoed person shall enter" YOU HAVE EARNED MY RESPECT GOOD SIR

      2. tfewster Silver badge

        Re: freedom?

        Good grief, 4 downvotes just because I _didn't_ slag off the the USA as being another country that treated arrivals as "guilty until proven innocent" ? Or because I asserted that some countries were more welcoming? Or maybe the downvoters think I should queue in turn like a good little Brit, giving up a little liberty for a little security (And just do the traditional Brit-grumble about dumb animals being treated better than humans)?

        Oh well - at least it got _some_ reaction (see icon)

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Big Brother

      What does it mean to 'break the internet?

      I agree with El Presidente.

      (And I'm sure I will garner down votes just with that comment.)

      But I have to wonder what people mean when they say 'don't break the internet' ?

      Clearly its not a talk about actually causing the root DNS servers to fail bringing everything down with them.

      But I would gather more of the model that if we take a stronger stance on individual's privacy rights along with copyright protection, that we will break the models of companies like FB and Google. That they won't be as profitable.

      If we look at all of these start ups, what would happen if they couldn't be profitable would they stll exist?

      Is that what is meant?

      1. Asgard
        Big Brother

        Re: What does it mean to 'break the internet?

        @Ian Michael Gumby:"that we will break the models of companies like FB and Google. That they won't be as profitable."

        If their business models weren't so profitable, either they would change their business models or other companies with different business models will inevitably emerge to take their place. So its not the end of the world, they or others just have to change.

        Also spying on privacy is blatant exploitation and basing any business model on blatant exploitation of people is morally wrong however they try to argue its not. Exploitation and manipulation of people for profit has been outlawed repeatedly throughout history for good reason, not least because the exploited rise up to fight that exploitation, coercion & manipulation.

        Also Google would not be able to erect pay walls around its search as it would loose hugely from advertisers who seek to place their websites high in the search results. That search income money can be maintained by Google without any personal information required from us. So as much as they want to spy on everyone, their business model doesn't require them to spy on people to stay very profitable.

        Facebook would need more chance, but even they earn good money from for example taking a very good cut of sales of applications like games which doesn't require them to spy on people. Also they can advertise to millions without spying, its just they and Google know there is more money to be earned from spying.

        Our privacy is under relentless attack and we need to draw a line against companies and governments because they will never stop in taking all they can get until they are forced to stop. Enough is enough.

      2. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

        Re: What does it mean to 'break the internet?

        I think "the internet" is google code for "our profitable business model" as in:

        It will break our profitable business model.... as indeed it would.

        Great article, great debate... you are definitely onto something Andrew

        and have gone right to the crux of the biscuit.

    3. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Ownership of data

      "The idea that we own every piece of data about ourselves, if taken to its logical conclusion, means that criminals effectively have a right not to be caught, if they refuse to sanction the use of data they own by the police to catch them." (A J Stiles)

      In the US, this is actually enshrined in law. It is illegal to demand a suspect incriminates himself, (hence the phrase "taking the Fifth" in many US police procedural series). This is why search warrants were invented. You CAN search through a person's private property, but ONLY if you have prior permission first, and to obtain that, you need to provide valid reasons to the relevant authority in order obtain that warrant. You can't just go on a fishing expedition.

      If memory serves, most Western nations have similar laws. So no, better enforcement of both personal and intellectual property rights would not break anything. Yes, the police might have to work a little bit harder, but nobody has ever claimed crime solving [i]should[/i] be easy.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Ownership of data

        '[...]but nobody has ever claimed crime solving [i]should[/i] be easy."

        You obviously haven't had a conversation with a Tea Bagger recently, how you?

      2. Graham Bartlett

        Re: Ownership of data

        Sure it is. But you have the question of what's "private" once it's left your PC. Most people would argue that a published website is "public". Public Facebook posts? Probably, too. Facebook posts to your friends only? Unsure. Facebook messages? Tricky - it's between two people, but the data is always held on a third party's machine. Emails? Even more tricky. Text messages? Or files shared across wireless networks? At what point do you need a search warrant, or permission for a wire-tap, or what else...?

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: Ownership of data

          @Graham Bartlett - It's actually very simple, anything posted publicly on a generally available website page (totally public or facebook post viewable by friends etc) is public. Any SMS, email, private message on facebook is private. It does not matter on how many servers worldwide it is stored, that is just incidental to the technical implementation. If I send someone a letter by post, it doesn't matter that the message is handled by the postal service, it's still a private message, so there shouldn't be any difference with email.

          Of course it would help if the whole internet / phone etc infrastructure were set up in a way that all messages are encrypted by default and the role of facebook, email provider etc is that of a postman (the way it should be). The way things really are, FB, Gmail etc etc take it for granted that it's OK to peek at your private messages. It doesn't matter that they do it to provide targeted ads etc, once in their mind they established the principle that they can read your mail, your privacy depends on their say-so, and you think they'll defend your privacy from a polite FBI / MI5 / etc request? They'll hand it over without so much as a warrant.

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Enforce the laws?

      @Graham Dawson:

      "Enforce the laws that exist rather than creating new ones. Of course that leaves copyright as a mostly civil matter in the UK, which is apparently an undesirable outcome for some people."

      Erm.... I think that's what ACAP was trying to do -- produce a protocol that allows the existing laws to be enforced.

    5. Matthew Hale
      Thumb Up


      ...One of the most sensible and succinct posts I've read for a while on this matter.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ownership of data

      Indeed... the law of the land changes as the powers that be see fit. By hook or by crook these men and women, who are determined enough to be in power, will also be determined enough to get `their way`.

      You are not a criminal today, but tomorrow, who knows.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah... of `those people` who seems to be under the misguided notion that if it doesn't make money it's not worth doing. Most of the great ideas have been conceived and created not by businessmen, but by artists, scientists and craftsmen of passion, who often choose to share their creation with as many people as possible. Many get little profit or recognition for their work. For many the money is incidental.

      I'm not saying people should not remunerate one another for each others labour, or that there is anything wrong with material Capitalism, but ideas are different, IMHO...

      I bet you even pay for love ;)

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @El Presidente

      Don't feed the Trolls...

      'Cos yeah, nobody has EVER done anything worth while and gives it away for nothing, apart from most 17,18 and 19th Century science, tons of Public Domain software (remember that), Wikipedia, Linux, ...remember that 20 years ago you couldn't even pay for stuff over the internet - what a lot of freetard bastards these people were eh!.

      Nobody is stupid enough to think El Pres is being serios (other than the 16 or so up-voters - who think this is a real post - LOL)

      Shit - I forgot, DON'T FEED THE TROLLS

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: @El Presidente


        So the company that paid for the programmer to do the basic research did this out of altruism?

        The developers at universities aka grad students, professors, aren't being paid or are trying to make a name for themselves so that when they matriculate they can garner a better salary?

        Bill Gates who is now donating the billions he made off of others wasn't a capitalist when he was making his vast fortune?

        Surely you jest.

    9. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Oh dear

      "Enforce the laws that exist rather than creating new ones. "

      Yes, agreed.

      "There's no need for the increasingly repressive and unworkable new copyright laws "

      Yes, agreed.

      "Stop making new laws and enforce that which already exists."

      Yes, agreed.

      There hasn't been a new copyright law for a very long time. Moral rights were added to UK law in 1988 and copyright was extended to cover collections in the early 1990s.

      SOPA and DEA strengthen enforcement, they don't extend it to new areas. SOPA and DEA are doing exactly what you want - perhaps not in the way you want it, but you haven't suggested anything better.

      Your post shows how deeply you misunderstand what's going on - at every level.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: Oh dear

        Sorry Andrew, can’t let you away with that.

        Massive logic failure on your part. Just because no new laws have been enacted does not mean that the old laws haven’t been changed.

        You are right that no new laws need to be enacted to protect copyright and that all we need is for the existing laws to be enforce. You are also right when you say SOPA and DEA don't extend the law to new areas. However what SOPA and the other laws do is that they shift the onus for the enforcement of those laws.

        Under the old scheme the copyright mafiaa had to do the one thing they hated doing, they had to produce evidence that somebody was infringing copyright laws, go to court and get the law applied. Under SOPA and related crap, all they have to do is claim that somebody was infringing copyright to get them either kicked off the internet (the so-called 3-strikes graduated response) or have ISP block access to a particular web-site. The way law is enacted here the only way to fight such a claim is to go to the high court. No problem if you are EMI/Sony et al with deep pockets, tough-shit if you are a little guy.

        So yes; no laws have been changed, but now you are guilty until proven innocent.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    excellent article. it's the issue of *control* that really p***es me off.

    Governments have exactly the same attitude. They force you to supply it and then feel you they have no need to tell you who will use it (or more usefully who accessed it without a good reason) or even how long it will be stored.

    It'll be interesting to see how interested companies remain in personal data when they have to *pay* for it.

    Break the Internet? B***cks.

    Break Google? Now that might be a truer statement.

    And civil servants so *dumb* they can't ask the first follow up question (One of those PPE types not wanting to show their ignorance?)

    Thumbs up for the article. P**s poor behavior by Google and the governments.

  8. ChrisM

    Because of the pushing back of dates by Disney and others (life + 70 years now IIRC) any reasoned argument is set against it.

    The intermingling of copyright and privacy as two sides of the same coin makes sense but will require google et al to respect our property however

    Interesting (and true) point at the end.e

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: *control*

      Hmm, could that be why governments support Google & Facebook? Because establishing a right to delete your data would have severe implications for the State/police/credit reference agencies.

      I agree that as long as you "use" Google/FB/The UK, they can hold data on you. But if you leave?

      I can't see Google being badly broken just because they can't track you for targeted ads any more; Deleting your FB account won't remove photos others have posted with you tagged, or remove all your posts to other people. So I'm not clear why they would care so much as to come out with ridiculous statements like "break the Internet".


      A highly specious argument.

      The idea that personal papers should be muddled with creative works that have been published is an unfortunate consequence of European ideas about copyrights. This includes the daft notion that every scrap of paper is precious.

      Private papers should remain as such and any attempt to drag copyright into this discussion is merely clouding the issue for the benefit of a miniscule set of corporate interests and their misguided lackeys.

      Any modern discussion on privacy needs to start by rolling back copyright concepts to 1783.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A highly specious argument.

        "The idea that personal papers should be muddled with creative works that have been published is an unfortunate consequence of European ideas about copyrights."

        No it isn't; the argument that "a digital copy doesn't cost anything" can be used to say that copying your private data hasn't deprived you of that data (only the abstract concept of privacy) so it can't be actionable (no civil or criminal liability).

        The article isn't really about the legal aspects of copyright; it's about the technical implementation of a system on the internet to mark content as being "owned by someone". It seems that Google has been working against such a technical system because it might hinder their ability to sell access (in the form of advertising) to someone else's content.

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: A highly specious argument.

        I can see what you're getting at, but I think you are mistaken.

        Copyright is essentially about documenting who owns something. In the old US system. there was a requirement to register copyright, just as there are registers of land ownership. It's a sometimes imperfect extension of the ideas of property and real estate. You can, especially in the digital age, drag in some sometimes non-obvious economic theory. You can steal a printed book, because the person you steal from can no longer use it. If I were to "steal" a file from your computer, you would still have the original.

        Privacy also depends on ownership rights. And sometimes gets complicated: when you rent a hotel room, do you have a right to privacy? In English law, there is a conflict between the right of a tenant to privacy, and the rights of the landlord to protect their property. There have been court cases. There are are words such as "reasonable" in the statutes. But at the heart of that balance is a clear identification of the parties to the contract.

        I suspect we all are over-simplifying a bit, and the whole idea of an absolute property right can be challenged. If you want to blame William the Bastard for it, feel free. But, in the world we have, it isn't stupid to associate privacy with property rights, and some way of documenting ownership.

        I don't want my privacy to depend on registering copyright with some government office. Which is why I dislike some of the assumptions that seem to be common amongst Americans. Some of them don't seem to have realised that US Copyright Law has changed to implement the Berne Convention. They have the same automatic copyright as us unfortunate Europeans.

        But, wherever we are, it seems that money talks. Google can make money out of playing fast and loose with our privacy. And, too often, money shouts, screams, and throws the mother of all temper tantrums.

        As far as privacy and copyright go, the various corporates and collectives are getting away with acting like spoiled children.

        Think of the adults, please.

    3. Sean Timarco Baggaley


      "Because of the pushing back of dates by Disney and others (life + 70 years now IIRC) any reasoned argument is set against it."

      This is rubbish. Governments don't spring magically from the foreheads of previous governments. In most Western nations—the US included—they are ELECTED. By "The People". If the people really don't want such laws enacted, they are perfectly entitled to make their position on the topic known to their representatives in government.

      Clearly they didn't give enough of a damn about this to do anything about it. Ergo, it's not unreasonable. 99.999% of the population of the USA have precisely zero interest in ripping-off Disney's characters, so why would they care how long the copyright on them lasts?

      In any case, the Disney argument fails on one important aspect: technically, the "creator" has not actually "died". Disney are still trading. If corporations are people too, (as a certain Republican presidential candidate insists), then the Disney corporation is perfectly justified in demanding that the [i]company[/i] owns the copyrights, not Walt Disney himself.

      Copyright law could trivially be rephrased to assert that the copyright is held valid as long as the "creating entity" continues to exist, with a time limit placing the copyrighted material into the Public Domain after an agreed period [i]after[/i] the creating entity dies or enters into liquidation. (You might even add a rider that such entities cannot transfer the copyrights to another entity after, say, 20 years from creation. That forces anyone who wants to buy up the rights to do so quickly. After that, the value of purchasing the entity falls dramatically.)

      You could add an arbitrary time limit—e.g. 100 years since date of creation—to prevent companies from just sitting on their property rights in perpetuity, but I think the argument for such limits is no longer applicable: The purpose of these was to ensure that copyrighted content remains available to the public, even after the author and / or publisher has disappeared, as archiving was expensive at the time. The BBC famously wiped many of its early video recordings because archiving them cost so much. Today, nobody's complaining that they can't find a copy of "Steamboat Willie".

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Pollyanna much?

        "Governments don't spring magically from the foreheads of previous governments. In most Western nations—the US included—they are ELECTED. By "The People". If the people really don't want such laws enacted, they are perfectly entitled to make their position on the topic known to their representatives in government."

        No, actually they spring up from the ass pockets of their landed patrons. Reference the Citizens United decision (

        Then, just for fun, look at the timeline for the campaign and governance for the current Govenrnor of Wisconsin. Pay special attention to the source of funds for said campaign, and the dichotomy between what was said, and what was (and is still being) done.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        Re: @ChrisM: you lost me right at the end...

        theres tons of pre digital content thats been ditched that people are endlessly moaning about. - or to pot it another way theres tons of people turning cartwheels about classic early cinema, though lost, but found mouldering in a besement somewhere.

        and really wtf is 100 years all about? the content churn in the post internet world is so massive that content a few years old is hopelessly outmoded.

        seems to me an attempt by copyright holders to get onto the same gravy train as the patent trolls - fuck that for a game of soldiers


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