back to article US Congress mulls expanding copyright yet again – to 144 years

The US Congress is looking to effectively extend copyright on some sound recordings to a staggering 144 years – making it the twelfth time copyright rules have been extended or expanded since the 1970s. The CLASSICS Act being debated in the Senate and House would create a new federal copyright rule for sound recordings made …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the law looks like a donkey, it becomes an ass.

    1. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Perhaps this latest will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        Nah... people will simply ignore it, and go on as usual.

        Even Joe Average has figured out by now that copyright does not exist for the benefit of the artists..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd reply with a 'Smiley' emoticon, but unfortunately they were trademarked a long time ago.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      FAIL

      Crony Capitalism at it's best

      Like the clause in the DMCA that means copyright on a digital recording is not owned by the artist but by the recording company.

      Helpfully inserted by a Senatorial staffer who later joined a large record lable.

      How many Senators actually wrote this law?

      How many will read it?

      How many will actually understand it's implications?

      And this is the benefit for no life limits on Congressional seats in either house.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Crony Capitalism at it's best

        How many Senators actually wrote this law?

        Who told you it was written by a senator? It was written by character with large ears, tail and traditionally wearing short pants with two big buttons. From the species Mus Musculus if memory serves me right.

        The senators are simply its servants.

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Crony Capitalism at it's best

          "Who told you it was written by a senator? It was written by character with large ears, tail and traditionally wearing short pants with two big buttons. From the species Mus Musculus if memory serves me right."

          I'm reminded of a lyric from David Bowie's Life on Mars:

          "It's on America's tortured brow,

          That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow."

          Won't somebody think of the record companies children?

          1. John Lilburne Silver badge

            Re: Crony Capitalism at it's best

            "I'm reminded of a lyric from David Bowie's Life on Mars:"

            I'm reminded that Bowie's estate can now claim license for each time Spotify et al stream that song. Odd that had he recorded it in 1972 they would have been no issues. But hey lets have the EFF etc tell us why a song recorded in on 01/01/1972 get a Federal copyright but one recorded on 31/12/1971 doesn't.

      2. Rainer

        Re: Crony Capitalism at it's best

        Laws are mostly written by law-firms these days.

        As it goes, the same law-firms often also happen to represent the corporations the laws are about.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Crony Capitalism at it's best

          @Rainer

          Are you telling me that Mickey Mouse isn't a lawyer? Or that Law Firms aren't Mickey Mouse organisations? I'm afraid that you'll need proof to disprove both of those statements.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "When the law looks like a donkey, it becomes an ass."

      ... as US politics are involved there'll be an elephant in the room as well!

  2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Facepalm

    how long before...

    Suddenly Mozart is back in copyright? Ancient Egyptians filling lawsuits over use of drums? Greek poets suing for infringement?

    Let the stuff go. Get it out there and let people have something nice without having those not actively involved in creating music coin it in...

    1. Mongo

      RIAA factoid #17: the Missing Mozarts

      We all celebrate Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as an unparalleled prodigy, but did you know that it is said [*] that many equally great composers lived in Vienna at the same time. But since the Austrian Empire lacked a farsighted approach to intellectual property these others could not trust in a revenue stream for their great great grandchildren and so instead became trainers of Lipizzaner horses.

      [*] not really said. Hissed by a flickering forked tongue, actually.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: RIAA factoid #17: the Missing Mozarts

        The only reason that Mozart's (very incomplete) Requiem ever saw the light of day is that his widow needed it finishing in order to get the money from the commission - no residuals for her. Had she been able to rely on a steady income, the work would almost certainly have been entirely lost.

        If you look at a list of "culturally significant" musicians, you won't find on it many people who made a lot of money during their lifetime and of those whose works were commercially successful, very little of that money will have ended up in their hands unless they had extremely good lawyers.

        Not that this will matter to the rental slavesstreaming consumers who will happily pay their monthly fee in perpetutity without really caring that hardly any of it is going to the creators of the music or that their access to it could be withdrawn on a whim.

        1. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: RIAA factoid #17: the Missing Mozarts

          Of the top of my head both Schubert and Handel made a shed load of money from copyright.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: how long before...

      No because the studios have no interest in making it back dated.

      eg Pinochio was written fewer years before the Disney movie than the Disney movie is to today

      The 144 years would be reasonable if it was retroactive - to all the C19 books of fairytales that the Mouse House based its movies on

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: how long before...

        "The 144 years would be reasonable"

        No, it's really not reasonable. It's "gross". Why is it 144 anyway? What kind of rectal extrapolation made THAT determination?

        This entire proposal stinks of rectal juice. Because that's where they pulled it out from.

        Copyright should have a reasonable restriction in time. Otherwise, it's just "money grubbing" by entities that live longer than the humans that created the content in the FIRST place.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      @Sgt_Oddball

      You do know Mozart carried out the most audacious act of piracy in music history?

      The Vatican had successfully protected its copyright on the famous Allegri Miserere for 150 years when Mozart, aged about 14, was touring in Rome and heard a performance at the Vatican. With his famously-perfect ear and memory, he transcribed it afterwards, and released it for the outside world.

      But the article talks of recordings, not of music. The world could be a better place if some of that muzak priced itself out of our public spaces!

    4. kurios

      Re: how long before...

      Even now, major US media companies are sponsoring research into reincarnating Sophocles, Euripides, and others so as to assert their media rights under the 4,000 year copyright extension to be introduced in the next Congressional session.

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: how long before...

        OK this is how stupid the EFF and Doctrow are being about this. Without the classics act the copyright protection is not one single Federal statute but is based on State by State protection and some of States do indeed have perpetual copyright terms. The EFF and Doctrow should careful that they don't get what they ask for.

    5. cosmogoblin

      Re: how long before...

      Let the stuff go

      Careful, you came very close to infringing the copyright of a certain froz cold Disn cartoon princess there...

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Copyright, Patents all screwed.

    As the article notes, the principle of copyright is simple. The creator should be able to benefit from their work. So the primary factor is 'is the creator alive'? It's perhaps not unreasonable to allow creators to leave their assets to others when they die (or before if they wish), but that should be strictly limited - so copyright should be limited to the life of the creator + 10 years. And if it's unclear whether a creator is alive or dead, and if they haven't been heard of for seven years they can be deemed dead, then some form of standard rate royalty paid into a central escrow system, which pays out if the creator turns up, or when they are deemed dead it's paid to suitable charitable purposes.

    Stuff Disney!

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

      so copyright should be limited to the life of the creator + 10 years.

      Stuff the ten years - even royalties for life is overly generous. The blokes who designed the toilets we shit in doesn't get royalties at all, and that's a far more important job than self indulgent dribblers moaning into microphones. And never mind the blokes designing the shitters, what about the navvies who laid the pipes, why don't the bloody narcissists of the "creative" industries have to pay per shit to the people who built the infrastructure their miserable lives depend upon. And pay to walk in streets served by street sweepers, tarmaced by navvies, like by 'leccy and lighting technicians, etc etc.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

        I can see where you're coming from, but don't entirely agree.

        1) The bloke who designed the toilet, depending on the cleverness of the design, CAN get royalties by patenting the thing, and licensing its use.

        2) The bloke who laid the pipes didn't invent the pipes. He offered to work for 3s. a day to do whatever work was required.

        3) The bloke who laid the tarmac? Was paid his 3s. per day for the work, and no-one else (generally) charges you to walk on it, except sometimes on a toll road where the organisation that owns the land and paid for the tarmac may charge you. Copyright is there so that the author profits from their work, but also stops others profiting from the same work without doing any of the work in the first place.

        1. Holtsmark

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          But here comes the BIG issue:

          A patent can be extended to around 20 years (depending on country) after FILING.

          This means that ground breaking expensive new technologies that need time to reach market maturity often runs out of patent time before it earns any money, while the rhythmic moaning of some idiot who can not hold a tone without massive computer filtering is protected for all eternity.

          It is definitely time to release the mouse.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            "the rhythmic moaning of some idiot who can not hold a tone without massive computer filtering"

            good one! [it's why I don't listen to most 'modern' RIAA stuff']

        2. dbtx Bronze badge

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          Copyright is there so that the author profits from their work, but also stops others profiting from the same work without doing any of the work in the first place.

          Supposedly, purportedly, ideally, ostensibly, etc. But not really. I thought everyone here and there already covered that. Writing contracts and conferring with lawyers isn't the same kind of work.

        3. cosmogoblin

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          And if you believe that in the record industry, the author is usually the one to profit from their work, perhaps I can interest you in some prime lunar real estate.

      2. cosmogoblin

        Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

        How about teachers? Should the person who taught you maths get a royalty every time you use Pythagoras' theorem? Should the person who taught you English get a royalty every time you write an email?

        Or should your midwife get a royalty every time you... uh, breathe?

        But of course that's not an honest comparison, since it's the labels who benefit, rarely the artists. So maybe the school you attended, the hospital you were born at, should get those royalties.

        Some things can be debated and defended. A life+144 years copyright rule? Not so much.

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

      > but that should be strictly limited - so copyright should be limited to the life of the creator + 10 years.

      I think a good case can be made for life + 50 years, like it was in most European countries until recently. It is actually the minimum prescribed by the Berne copyrigt convention. It gives a useful legacy for the heir of an artist for their lifetime, or most of it, (usually), but does not stretch to practical infinity,

      1. EarthDog Bronze badge

        Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

        Life + 50? Why? So the person's freeloading relatives can make money with no work and then brag about what clever business people? And then decry the poor for being lazy parasites? If you want to see parasite go to a pricey resort town and watch all the trust fund babies stuffing their monthly checks up their noses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          Patents are for about 17 years, right? So why shouldn't copyright be the same?

          Write or perform a song, and let society give you a monopoly of 15 or 20 years to monetise it. When your monopoly expires, then either write a new song, continue gigging, or get a proper job.

          In any case, as others have pointed out, generally it's not the author or performer who benefits, but the corporation who has acquired the rights.

          It seems also that copyright gives a strong incentive *not* to use real musicians.

          Example 1: quite a few years ago, Coronation Street re-recorded its iconic theme tune using synthesisers - presumably to get around repeat performance fees. (It was a very close copy; you probably wouldn't notice the change without a good ear, but I did)

          Example 2: I once bought for my young daughter a Dorling Kindersley book about musical instruments. It came with a CD containing small pieces by each instrument so you could learn how they sounded. Except they weren't recordings of real instruments: they were all performed on a synthesiser.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            Within recent memory the law was that copyright lasted 70 years from the point of creation, which was both fair and easy to track. Created in 1900, copyright expires 1970.

            As soon as you get into life of author + something then you actually have to figure out who the Author was, and when they died which requires a lot more time and effort that just looking at ©2018 and knowing that the copyright expires in +70 years.

          2. cosmogoblin

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            If I create and release a song, I* get money not just for the original performance, but every time it's used by anybody anywhere (outside of private homes and earbuds), for the rest of my life.

            But I'm not a singer, I'm a physics teacher. If I come up with a great analogy that helps a student understand an equation, and they go on to use that understanding in their future job, do I get to claim 10p every time they use the equation?

            Of course not - and neither should I. I get paid for teaching those students this year, and I get future money by teaching different students; musicians should get their future money by writing and singing new and different songs. The idea that you did something decades ago and therefore have the right to be paid for it today is not something that exists in most industries.

            * Not actually I, of course, a bunch of copyright trolls instead, but ignore for the sake of analogy

          3. Sanguma

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed. synthesiser

            :Except they weren't recordings of real instruments: they were all performed on a synthesiser.:

            And the joke with that is that most modern synthesizers' voices aren'f synthesized: they are recordings, averaged out, of particular instruments. My own electronic piano has several voices, and they are all recordings of real instruments.

            Actual synthesis seems to be a lost art, unless you can write your own synth in code, or fork out big bucks for a top-of-the-line synth from someone who actually makes them.

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          Life + 50? Why?

          Well, if you're in your latter stages of life, you might want to protect your good idea for your families benefit after you're gone. Otherwise copyright would simply be issued to the youngest relative in the family, achieving the same thing for the creators family, but immediately depriving the creator of control of their work while alive.

          I might write a book. At 40+ at least half my life is gone (I'm Northern, so 40 is to us is like 60 in Kent). It would make sense to register copyright in my kids names rather than in my own.

          Not everyone who seeks to pass on some of their earnings to their children produces drug fulled trust fund babies, or even trust funds at all. People who have earned their money have every right to pass it on to their children upon death, or before, should they so choose. Given that it is inordinately difficult to pass wealth down beyond the 3rd generation after it is acquired, this hardly seems a problem for state intervention; most of the inherited-enough-wealth-not-to-work brigade squander it because they have no idea how money, commerce, or real life work.

          1. Eguro

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            How's about author's life + 50, but no more than 70?

            Get the best of both worlds - though perhaps author's life + 10, but no more than 30 might seem more reasonable to me.

            If your song suddenly resurges after 30 years, then hopefully you'll have other ways of supporting you by then - and you can still take the band on tour, since the original creator ought to attract a crowd (assuming the song is popular enough).

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

              "If your song suddenly resurges after 30 years"

              A resurgence of 80's music, WITHOUT copyright protection? TOTALLY AWESOME!

              [and it would shed the light on how lousy most "modern" music is, by comparison]

              On a related note, Smash Mouth did pretty well with retro-60's stuff. A case in point!

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            Wanting to leave something for you kids is great, but I don't see why copyright should be used toward that goal. If you're concerned about leaving something for your kids, there are innumerable ways to do that -- the same ways, in fact, that most people in non-copyright industries do it.

            I think "legacy" is a very weak argument for making copyright "life + 50".

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

              "I think "legacy" is a very weak argument for making copyright "life + 50"."

              Is is the artist's fault if they don't get recognized, despite working their butts off, until very late in life...or even AFTER they die? At least tradesmen do their work and get paid, end of. Artistry is less consistent ever since working for a direct commission fell out of fashion.

        3. strum Silver badge

          Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

          >Life + 50? Why? So the person's freeloading relatives can make money with no work

          The rationale was that a writer might work very hard to feed his family, after he could no longer do so.

          It would seem unfair if the author kicked the bucket, a day after his best-seller was published.

          (The real answer is that his publisher wouldn't entertain a work that might be a free-for-all in a few month's time.)

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            "The rationale was that a writer might work very hard to feed his family, after he could no longer do so"

            That's a terrible rationale, though. The writer should have been working to ensure his family's comfort before approaching death's door, just like everyone else has to do.

            Anything beyond the lifetime of the author does not further the stated goal of copyright, and really looks like unearned gravy at the public's expense.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            "The rationale was that a writer might work very hard to feed his family, after he could no longer do so."

            That's BS: Inheritance and life insurance are for that. Applies to every person, including 'artists'.

          3. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

            "(The real answer is that his publisher wouldn't entertain a work that might be a free-for-all in a few month's time.)"

            But would he entertain a work AND THEN the author is suddenly killed in an automobile accident or dies unexpectedly of a heart attack?

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

        "I think a good case can be made for life + 50 years"

        What is that "good case"?

    3. strum Silver badge

      Re: Copyright, Patents all screwed.

      >As the article notes, the principle of copyright is simple. The creator should be able to benefit from their work.

      But that's not what it's for. Copyright exists to encourage the creation of works - for the good of society. It is supposed to be an incentive to the living, not a meal-ticket for those exploiting a dead man.

      Article I Section 8. Clause 8 – Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution. [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

      And these creative works are supposed to enter Public Domain, after copyright expires - hopefully before it ceases to be useful to anyone.

  4. Mongo

    Next act will be titled: "To infinity - and beyond!"

    (making the joke now, before the Mouse House gets further additions to the copyright quiver)

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Next act will be titled: "To infinity - and beyond!"

      That would be unconstitutional, since the Constitution specifically says copyright should be for a limited term. To infinity or beyond wouldn't be a "limited term". Copyright will be extended to infinity minus one day.

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        Re: Next act will be titled: "To infinity - and beyond!"

        @JohnFen ok, then let's establish it to "10 years before the heath-death of the universe"!

        but then I expect the Big Rodent lawyers say that it's still not enough to extract enough revenue

        1. Public Citizen

          Re: Next act will be titled: "To infinity - and beyond!"

          And the foundation of the "Big Rodents" Empire [and subsidiary Kingdoms] was the need to develop a knock off of the Character "Oswald The Lucky Rabbit" when the copyright holder decided that they could produce the product for less than the Disney Brothers by the simple expedient of hiring the majority of the Disney Brothers staff away.

          If you look at the Oswald Character and the Mouse Characters early drawing that were contemporary to Oswald the genesis of the Rodent becomes obvious.

          Also, look at the copyright status of most of the stories that became the classic "Disney Animated Features". They were mostly out of copyright. Later on, when Disney had to work with the authors of works still in Copyright the relationships were often unsatisfactory to the copyright holder, case in point Mary Poppins.

          It should be noted that the members of the Disney Family who were at one time actively involved in the management of the enterprise have all left the company, including surrendering all seats on the Board of Directors. They still have ownership of large amounts of stock but no longer have control of the name, likeness, or work product of the members of the family who are responsible for the creative work.

          In other words, the entire enterprise is in control of Lawyers and other suits who have no legitimate claim to the pre 1965 work under any Law of Copyright in effect at the time of the principals death.

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