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. veti Silver badge

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

        @John Fen: big picture. You're not thinking big enough.

        In about two more iterations the Constitution itself will be in copyright, and then good luck trying to quote it against Congress.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

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

        "Copyright will be extended to infinity minus one day."

        STILL illegal. As any math fool know, Infinity + anything still = infinity. And a minus is simply the adding of a negative number, so it still applies here. No, to make it limited, the value must be discrete and bound (infinity is UNbounded).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      It's not all about Disney and Sony, what about the little guys.

      As a creative myself I make money from my photos, alright it's only a few hundred quid a month but my work is worth money and I'd like my children to continue to benefit from my work if it still had any value when I'm dead.

      I have a large selection of print my great great grandfather shot while working as a professional photographer around 1890. They are superb pieces, huge glossy prints of people and places that are long gone. You know owns the copyright on the images? Francis Frith company, even though my own ancestor made all those trips with his bulky plate camera all over the UK, took incredible photos I have no say in how they're used as someone else owns the rights to them and controls their use. I know they still see, I've seen them being used but I don't see a penny of that.

      Without copyright protections extended people lose out on cashing in on their ancestors legacies, however with copyright extended others retain control over works that should by rights be handed down to the decendents of those who should have ownership.

      I'm torn.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

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

        You were give a monoploy on the use of your work in return for donating it to society at some point in the future. That is what the copyright bargain is. Why do you think you should keep the first part of the agreement, but not the secoond part?

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

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

        You know owns the copyright on the images? Francis Frith company, even though my own ancestor made all those trips with his bulky plate camera all over the UK, took incredible photos I have no say in how they're used as someone else owns the rights to them and controls their use. I know they still see, I've seen them being used but I don't see a penny of that.

        Sure, but it would seem your ancestor sold the image rights or was otherwise contracted for their creation via wages or other means. My forefathers variously dug the mines, battered the Germans, or built and installed industrial heating or cooling equipment, all for someone elses company. It conveys no right for me to start tolling their use now.

        Without copyright protections extended people lose out on cashing in on their ancestors legacies, however with copyright extended others retain control over works that should by rights be handed down to the decendents of those who should have ownership.

        If the person that did the work was paid for it or sold their on going rights, then why would they pass to the decendents? Logically the rights have transferred ownership in some form of commercial transaction, which should be honoured.

        That said, and despite my previous post regarding passing down wealth, I generally don't believe in inherited wealth. Everyone should make their own way in the world, instead of relying on the efforts fo the dead or the efforts of the rest of us.

  1. jonfr

    Copyright extensions need to stop

    This needs to stop. Once the creator is dead, he is dead and won't be needing the revenue any more. The family of that artists can get whatever is in the inheritance (or what this is called in English. I don't know the word for it). The general rule needs and should be that once the copyright holder is dead all of his work should be public domain from the next year after (paperwork takes time).

    A example. Creator of work created in 2021 dies in early in the year 2080. After the paperwork is done (or not done) all of his work go into public domain from the start of the year 2081. Giving his work a 70 to 90 year copyright protection after his death is ridiculous and stupid and that law needs to be abolished.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

      Go look at the history of that little ditty that gets sung at just about everyone's birthday party. It sort of says it all about "greed" and the music industry.

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

        "It sort of says it all about "greed" and the music industry."

        I don't want to be rude but you are repeating yourself.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

        "the history of that little ditty that gets sung at just about everyone's birthday party"

        not 'the birthday dirge', right?

        (to the tune of 'Volga boatmen')

        Oh, happy BIRTH-day

        Oh, happy BIRTH-day

        Misery and despair, people dying everywhere

        Oh, happy BIRTH-day

        You're getting OLD-er

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

      This isn't being done to guarantee income for life for the descendants of an individual artist. It is being done to protect works created by or owned by corporations. Especially ones with rodents for mascots.

      I've always thought a simple system should be a limited term (20 years, 50 years, pick a number) and after that there needs to be a reapplication every 10 years, for a non-insignificant fee (let's say $100K) which doubles for every renewal.

      That way everything eventually goes back into the public domain, once the cost of renewal exceeds its economic value to its owners. Elvis' relatives can keep sponging off his legacy for many years, but someday their royalties will be exceeded by the payment due for the next ten years' term, and it won't be worth it for them to renew any longer. Sorry great-great grandchildren, the gravy train is over.

    3. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

      In most cases, the copyright on music is not held by the musicians but by corporations.

      There's also copyright on the tune, the lyrics, the arrangement as well as the original recording and any tweaked version of the recording. This whole thing is a lawyer's wet dream, especially since they're not mandating registration of copyright.

      You'll also find that a lot of corporately-produced music no longer specifies the start-date of the copyright.

      This is being initiated in the USA but will be enforced worldwide, as the Disney Law was.

    4. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

      Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

      Not only this, but copyright should only be given to natural persons, not corporations.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

        So Disney can't copyright the latest Star Wars film? Your position isn't reasonable. Let them have copyright, just like people, but pay escalating fees over time to renew that copyright. If something still has worth after decades, great, pay for the privilege of keeping it out of the public domain.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

          "So Disney can't copyright the latest Star Wars film?"

          The latest Star Wars film is a brand new work, so of course they could.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

          "So Disney can't copyright the latest Star Wars film?"

          To me, that is exactly the idea: Corporations are not creating anything, ever.

          They are paying someone, a person or group of persons, to create. Totally different.

          Also: Corporation doesn't die so the copyright in essence is eternal, which is specifially forbidden in constitution.

          Tell us: When does the copyright given to Disney end? 70 years from the death of Disney corporation?

          Basically same thing as never.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

            Who gets the copyright for the latest Star Wars film then, when there were dozens of actors, and probably thousands of crew? I'd love to be that lucky person, so I could quit Disney the day after the copyright was put in my name and collect all the profits myself :)

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

        I agree. Further, I think that it should not be allowable to transfer a copyright to anyone else.

    5. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Copyright extensions need to stop

      The general rule needs and should be that once the copyright holder is dead all of his work should be public domain from the next year after (paperwork takes time).

      So if someone comes up with something amazing, and they happen to die in an accident the next week totally nothing to do with Disney, Disney can just use it as public domain the next year?

      Do you want hordes of recording industry assassins stalking our musicians?

      Creation + min term OR life, whatever is longer.

  2. ma1010 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    As many have observed

    We have the finest lawmakers money can buy. And that's what it's ALL ABOUT in Washington these days. Nobody cares about culture or the fact that extending copyright indefinitely STEALS from the common people who should be able to inexpensively enjoy works in the public domain (like the Gutenberg Project). It's one thing to protect an author during his/her lifetime and for a reasonable (maybe 20 years) period after death, but our "Corporate Congress" is only interested in benefiting their corporate buddies and themselves.

    And they wonder why there are so many copyright violators around. If you make the laws REASONABLE, most people will tend to obey them because they see their benefit to society. The more ridiculous you make the laws to benefit a few megacorporations, the more people will lose respect for the law and the government that makes them.

    1. aks Bronze badge

      Re: As many have observed

      Following the thought provoked by your avatar, why not have a half-life on copyright?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: As many have observed

        That could actually work. Copyright extends after the author's death by half the age of the author at death. So, write a novel at 99, die at 100, copyright lasts another 50 years. Write a novel at 19, die at 30, copyright lasts another 15 years.

        None of which addresses the issue of the author being a corporation with perpetual succession, so never dies. UK copyright law deals with this by declaring that the corporate authorship dies after a defined time at which point the death+plus bit kicks in.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: As many have observed

          I would have said the other way around - if the law is reasonably to protect the financial rights of relatives after someones death, it should be like life insurance.

          After all, they "claim" that artists need their work protected after death otherwise they may not enter the industry for fear of not being able to financially support their family for a while after they've gone.

          Die at 99 when you only wrote a book a year previously is going to have less of an impact than if you die at 35.

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: As many have observed

          That could actually work. Copyright extends after the author's death by half the age of the author at death. So, write a novel at 99, die at 100, copyright lasts another 50 years. Write a novel at 19, die at 30, copyright lasts another 15 years.

          I've upvoted you because I really like the idea. My only concern would become the potentially grotesque practice of prolonging 'life' via machines to ensure the family creative reaches a (literally) ripe old age, thus ensuring the royalties last as long as possible.

          Don't mind the smell, thats great great great grandad - he's mostly liquified by now, but legally alive.

  3. fobobob
    Joke

    Well, people are living longer these days...

    1. BlueTemplar

      Initially, in the US, copyright lasted only 14 years (and could be extended after that for another 14 for a fee).

      Curiously, 14 years is also what some (modern) économistes have found to be the ideal copyright duration...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Initially the US COMPLETELY IGNORED every other countries copyright. (Just pointing out the obvious)

      2. onefang

        "Curiously, 14 years is also what some (modern) économistes have found to be the ideal copyright duration..."

        Hmmm, so we should just have a blanket policy of pirating anything older than 14 years? I would have gone 30 or 40 myself, but I'm no economist, I'll trust the experts on this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > so we should just have a blanket policy of pirating anything older than 14 years?

          It wouldn't be "pirating", it would be that the work passes into the public domain: you would be fully entitled to share it. Libraries of classic recordings and films would pop up, with very low access charges. Bands would be free to make public performances.

          Meanwhile, record companies and film companies would be forced to concentrate on promoting new talent and new material, rather than maximising the returns on old material from a handful of megabucks stars.

      3. John Lilburne

        "Curiously, 14 years is also what some (modern) économistes have found to be the ideal copyright duration..."

        The LOTR was published in 1955 a film version was produced some 56 years later and 38 years after JRRT's death. Accordingly it should have just been a freebie to Hollywood?

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          " it should have just been a freebie to Hollywood?"

          And to everyone else as well. It's not a "freebie", it becomes owned by society collectively.

  4. tekHedd
    Facepalm

    Seriously!

    I can't see how Congress keeps getting duped into supporting Mickey Mouse legislation like... oh...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100 Years Of Hell

    Rent-Seeking Corporations dividing up the world...

    Please tell me... When's the Revolution coming???

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: 100 Years Of Hell

      as soon as the supporters of the Grab Our Pussies (and other conservatives) party notice that it's not the liberals that are the enemies but their "own" elected politicians

      i.e. never

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: 100 Years Of Hell

        And people who refer to the 'other guys' as the "Grab Our Pussies" party realize that previous copyright extensions have been supported by liberals just as much as conservatives, and there's no reason to believe it will be different this time.

        The only hope to prevent this would be to organize some bastardized coalition of liberals who think corporations have too much power, and conservatives who think Hollywood elites have too much power, to outvote all the regular guys in both parties who are happy to take their checks from Disney et al and figure they can vote the way their "donors" want since they know this isn't an issue that will decide anyone's vote - not alongside real hot button issues like abortion or guns.

        That's the problem we have as voters - even if we care about this issue like many El Reg readers do, is a liberal really going to vote for an anti-abortion pro-NRA Trump champion because he's willing to stop copyright extension? Is a conservative really going to vote for a pro-choice pro-gun control Trump critic because he's willing to stop copyright extension? Especially when you might have to keep voting that way over and over again, because they only have to extend copyright once.

      2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

        Re: 100 Years Of Hell

        It is not a Repub/Democrat thing. The mistake people make is they really believe that the other party is corrupt to the core while their own favorite party is not. Example: Bill Clinton, Democrat, signed the DMCA law which made it illegal for me to break encryption even if I want to make a personal copy of my legally purchased item. All political parties today answer to their corporate overlords, just in different ways. The only way to fix it is to ask the people who are bribed by corporations to ban those very same bribes. That ain't going to happen.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: 100 Years Of Hell

          Yes, the enemy are the politicians, not their political leaning.

          They prefer the population to believe in one party or the other (even if it's not their party) - it keeps the population distracted arguing amongst themselves, whilst the politicians (left and right) make loads of money from legal bribes from corporations, who are NOT acting in the peoples interests.

          1. Tomato42 Silver badge

            Re: 100 Years Of Hell

            yes, yes, yes, both parties are responsible for copyright extensions

            thing is: a). now it's the GOP that's in power, and b). it's the party that has critters that are impervious to facts, logic and totally unashamed (if not proud) of it

            with Democratic congress we would have at least a chance of showing them empirical data that shows that their solution is wrong and have a discussion about it; with GOP it will be ignored as paid-for scientists of "Big Public Domain", enemies of "Economy" and ignored completely

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: 100 Years Of Hell

          "It is not a Repub/Democrat thing."

          THAT particular issue is a distraction. The Money Party holds the US house and congress. The facets therein are just window dressing.

        3. taz-nz

          Re: 100 Years Of Hell

          the DMCA also gave us safe harbor, which made youtube and basically every other image and video hosting site possible, without it youtube would have been sued out of existence long ago.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Creative Commons

    That's my remedy. I haven't bought any copyrighted music for years. I pick up far better and more original music from all over the world, and when I've got some spare dosh I push it to those with donation links.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Creative Commons

      I don't avoid copyrighted music (even CC-licensed stuff is copyrighted -- it's copyright law that makes the CC licenses enforceable).

      However, I stopped buying music produced by RIAA-member labels many years back. Interestingly, from the point of view of finding, buying, and enjoying music, it was the best thing I did. I now get better quality music than ever, and I get the satisfaction of knowing that the money I'm spending on it now goes directly to the artists.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Creative Commons

      Look up who created and supports "Creative Commons". It's a joke. If you want to give your stuff away, just post it on a web site with a notice and contact information that you are giving it away. You can also donate your work to the US Library of Congress with an affidavit that puts it immediately into the public domain. You are also welcome to give anybody you like use of your works for no charge while still maintaining your copyright over the work. You do want to know who these people are so you can be sure you get credit and they might even be interested in more of your work or hiring you.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Creative Commons

        Not "puts it" in the public domain, "makes it" public domain. *putting* something in the public domain is the act of making it public - ie, publishing it. *MAKING* something public domain is extinguishing copyright controls on it. And even if you keep your copyright control over something, you are completely and utterly able to use that control to grant complete and utter freedom of use and reproduction of it.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Creative Commons

        "If you want to give your stuff away, just post it on a web site with a notice and contact information that you are giving it away."

        Licensing something with a CC license is not equivalent to declaring it to be public domain, nor is it intended to be. It's an entirely different beast. With a CC license, you are not renouncing your rights to the work -- you are retaining them. Not only are you retaining them, you are asserting them in order to allow specific sorts of uses that you find desirable to allow.

        This is literally no different than any other licensing of your works. The only aspect of it that is atypical is that you aren't requiring payment in exchange for issuing the license.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Creative Commons

      using 'pay/donate if you like it' is kinda like shareware. I'm sure it works, but artists will probably starve.

      It also takes power away from MPAA and RIAA (etc.)

      Unfortunately, the existing system [even though it picks the winners and losers] is more lucrative to actors, artists and musicians.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Creative Commons

        "Unfortunately, the existing system [even though it picks the winners and losers] is more lucrative to actors, artists and musicians."

        It's really not. A miniscule percentage of them make big bucks, but the rest of them make very nearly nothing under the current system. As a rapidly increasing number of artists are discovering, you can make more money and actually retain the rights to what you make by avoiding the production companies entirely.

        Yes, you'll have smaller audiences and probably less fame, but if your goal is to make a living, then those don't matter as much. If your goal is to become a superstar, then roll the dice with the production companies.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Creative Commons

        " I'm sure it works, but artists will probably starve."

        False, at least in some documented cases. Have you any idea how little a record company is paying to said artists?

        Like 50 cents from a sold CD, minus costs: Making said CD, advertising it and managerial cost, all done in Hollywood bookkeeping style.

        So you sold 1M CDs? Oh, you still owe $200k to record company, too bad. Said company gets about $10M to their own coffers, of course, as a publisher. All profit as you, as an artist, paid _all costs_, literally.

        And 50 cents is a lot, only famous artists get that. A reason why every major artist has their own record company.

        If you publish your record yourself, under CC or not, and put voluntary donation button on the download page, about 10% of downloaders will donate something, varying from 5c to $50, but on average you earn more than any record company will ever pay you.

        No middleman stealing it all.

        Applies of course only to music makers who already have some name and recognition. But you can get those by making live performances.

        Or having a record company selling you while they steal everything you make and leave you in debt.

        Your choice.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Creative Commons

        "Unfortunately, the existing system [even though it picks the winners and losers] is more lucrative to actors, artists and musicians."

        To the record companies, you mean. The percentage of the artists who actually get rich is ridiculously small, less than 0,1%. So small it basically rounds to zero. There are more lottery winners than there are rich artists and that should tell you something.

        The record company instead wins every time. That's 100%.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More unintended consequences ?

    As subsequent generations prefer to make their own music, rather than pay the Danegeld ?

  8. scrishton

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