back to article Google-funded group mad that US Copyright Office hasn't abolished copyright yet

Following extensive coverage of Google’s capture of government policy making and its agencies, a Google-funded group has responded with a surreal report into “regulatory capture” – allegedly by people Google wishes weren’t there. Unfortunately, the report from the activist groupuscule Public Knowledge (PK) – one of a number of …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    As the husband of an author, PK can just fuck off. Copyright is a good thing for authors and publishers and keeps the likes of Google for "pirating"... err... "providing free access" to their works without paying the creators and publishers a cent.

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      IIRC and Usenet

      Almost any book that is worth reading (and many that are not) can be found on Usenet or the IIRC groups. The copyright laws have proven incapable of preventing this - and the politicians are not interested. The politicians are only interested in the media companies who make big donations (Hollywood, big music etc) - these companies (Disney being one of the worst offenders) have pushed for the copyright term to be raised to its current stupid length.

      Copyright should be limited to no more than 20 years from first publication (or public viewing for films).

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Re: IIRC and Usenet

        SHHHHHHHHH! For heavens sake...

        The first rule of <Redacted> is don't talk about it...

      2. isogen74

        Re: IIRC and Usenet

        > The copyright laws have proven incapable of preventing this

        Making murder illegal does not stop people killing each other, but it does mean that there is some legal redress/punishment when you do. That may encourage prevention (cost of punishment > value of crime), but that isn't the sole purpose of the legal system.

        ... and besides the point here isn't random individuals copying a book, it's big corporations wanting to effectively usurp individual rights to make a profit (at the expense of those who held the rights in the first place).

      3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: IIRC and Usenet

        Mr Macdonald, why 20 years? So if I write a novel in my 20s and hope its tiny flow of royalties continues, I get it cut off in my 40s? And then I can watch other people enrich themselves and I don't see a penny from my work?

        I think the 70 years after my death cover is absurd -- yes, I'd like the goodies to continue for my widow, but this long extension really only helps the publisher.

        I find no one who actually creates films, songs, novels, poems, etc wanting a copyright period less than their lifetimes. Everybody else wants it shorter or gone. Users, so they don't want to pay us, and Silicon valley types, so they can help themselves. Both these groups see what I do as valuable. And yet I am not supposed to get the value.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      3 down votes?! WTF?! No really, WTF?!

      Have an upvote from me.

      This issue is utter bullshit and shows, yet again, that American corporations want unequal rights.

    3. Smooth Newt

      Software patents?

      How are they on software patents - is it "I can copy your novel but you can't copy my code"?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think most of the content creators getting upset with Google is just absurd. The music industry is peeved about YouTube, but Google pays those guys and other creators north of a billion dollars a year. That is a lot better than the previous model, in which they received zero dollars a year from pirate file sharing sites. The music and other content creators want to put the genie back in the bottle and go back to selling CDs at $20 a pop like the early 90s, but that is never going to happen. Google just handed these guys a viable business model when they had nothing... and they are acting like Google invented Napster.

      1. Jez Burns

        The behaviour of Google is worse than the file sharing sites - at least they didn't have the sheen of legitimacy and the ability to influence legislation. If there is 'north of a billion dollars per year', that money will only ever go to the big players in the publishing industries. Music and content creators (apart from those with the most generic, middle of the road, audience friendly products) are generally left begging for scraps, not having a clue what is happening to their rights, and if having the time or inclination to chase them, becoming lost in a labyrinthine maze where they have to put all their trust in large corporations to treat them fairly with absolutely no accountability - you can imagine how that works out. If you can shut down piracy in murky, underground conduits for sharing, why shouldn't it be possible to shut it down when conducted brazenly by the world's largest corporations?

        Imagine a world where the only restaurant you could eat in was McDonalds. Some people wouldn't have a problem with that I guess, but culturally, the behemoth content pirates of the world are taking us there whether we like it or not..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          They are not though, left begging for scraps. There have been several articles on this subject. Musicians often make *more* money today than they did in the big record label era. Why? Because the big record labels ate up so much of the profit on their albums and tours and often left them with scraps or in debt. Record companies kept, on average, 95% of the returns and the artists received 5%. That is why whenever someone becomes a huge superstar, Prince, The Beatles, etc, the first thing they do is break away and start their own record and publishing company. Now musicians are selling their own music often on their own websites. In the digital/social era, you don't need a huge record contract from Epic to make money on your music. You can do your own promotion. You will sell fewer records, but if you are netting 50-60% as opposed to 5%, that can work out well. It has also created more concerts as concerts are now money makers for artists instead of just a promotional event for the record label.

          It is just not true to say that this hurts artists. At the high end, Taylor Swift, and the low end of the scale, they are doing better. Records companies are doing worse because people don't need their promotion, connections with DJs, production and distribution any more. This "you are hurting artists!" campaign was cooked up by fat cats in LA who are seeing themselves cut out of the process.

          This also leads to a greater diversity of music and better music. In the previous era, if some record executive didn't think you had a snappy sound, you could not get to the audience. Now anyone can create their own following.

          Better in every way.

          Apart from that, I don't want to listen to any musician who is not going to make music because they are only going to be a multi-millionaire (assuming they are a success) instead of a hundred millionaire.

    5. breakfast
      Thumb Down

      Given that they plan to automate away all non-creative work in the next twenty years or so, it seems a little harsh that they also want to prevent creators being able to create their own income. Who do they think will be paying for their services in future?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The creators should embrace digital channels. As Chuck D said, they really should have partnered with Napster (basically to create iTunes) when it appeared on the scene instead of trying to kill it. Chop one head off in these situations, two new heads immediately appear in its place.

  2. Mage Silver badge


    Excellent exposé!

  3. Nunyabiznes

    Color me surprised.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Individual property rights"

    How does this protect "Individual property rights" ?

    "The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) 1998 extended these terms [...] for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier"

    If copyright terms were reasonable, it might be defensible.

    They are not. It is not.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: "Individual property rights"

      The UK extended the copyright term for music recently. From fifty years to seventy. Got to make sure the Beatles keep making new music somehow.

      1. APA

        Re: "Individual property rights"

        "Got to make sure the Beatles keep making new music somehow."

        Wouldn't extending the term have the opposite effect? With the money still rolling in then they don't have an incentive to do anything new. With shorter terms however* then publishers could force content creators to carry on writing new material or they won't get paid.

        * Not that I'm agreeing with this. I have sympathies for the author in an above post who would like the book they've written to support them through to old age.

  5. Graham Cobb

    Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

    I don't like Google either, but I don't think you should ascribe everything that you think is wrong with copyright to Google.

    Like you, and many others, I am a rightsholder. Although I don't post photos, I do write and release open source code under the GPL. I value copyright. However, that doesn't stop me:

    1) Wanting to change copyright. It is, indeed, much too long, and it needs to be much more restricted. I am willing to give creators a very limited monopoly for a very limited period of time. If that isn't good enough for them then stop creating -- that is fine by me (but I am confident they won't).

    2) Believing that the job of the USCO, and all other the administrative and legal arms of the government, is to balance the interests of rightsholders and users, not to "further the interests of rightsholders".

    1. isogen74

      Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

      > Believing that the job of the USCO, and all other the administrative and legal arms of the government, is to balance the interests of rightsholders and users, not to "further the interests of rightsholders".

      No, the role of administrative and legal arms of the government is to implement the law as written. If you allow "balance" and "human opinion" in there, then your government will be swayed by money at the bottom level. If you don't like it, change the law (as I suspect it should be - lack of sense is a problem here), but don't give government offices choices about when or when not to apply the law - that's just anarchy under a different name.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

      Agree. Well stated. These paranoid articles make it out like Google is out taking the bread out of a starving author's plate. In most cases, they are taking some of the champagne out of the wine cellar of large corporations.

      There is no doubt that the copyright, patent system is broken. There are some seriously absurd things going on, especially on the IT IP side. You can pick your favorite example. I like Apple having to pay MSFT patent licensing cash for the wheel on the iPod because somebody at MSFT at some point grabbed a patent for using a wheel interface, even though they never thought about putting it to work until Apple came along (and then they started riffling through their huge patent files to see what they could use to greenmail them... if it wasn't the wheel, it would have been something else). These patents are just there as competitive moats for the huge incumbents. If some start up (or even large company, in Apple's case) seeks to enter the market, the incumbent just hits them with a lawsuit for 800 patent violations. Whether they actually violated any patents or not is completely irrelevant. Microsoft just sued you with their infinitely deep pockets and army of lawyers. You can prove your case, that will take a few years and millions in legal fees. MSFT has the time and money, most smaller firms do not. If you are a start up, as soon as MSFT (or whoever) sues you, there goes your VC cash as they don't want to pay to get into a legal battle with MSFT. The smaller firm either has to go away or accept whatever acquisition offer the large firm offers them. It needs to be changed.

      On the content providers (as in music, books, etc), I think it varies by category with regard to Google. The publishers got all upset with Google books, but it doesn't seem to have hurt them in any meaningful way... or in a way that would not have already been an issue for book publishers in the digital age. I think it is completely fair use to provide snippets (Amazon does it too, with the publishers blessing) and make the content searchable. It hasn't killed anything. People are still going to purchase full length books from Google Play and Amazon. No one is reading full length material still under copyright on Google Books. On music, I think Google (YouTube) actually saved the music industry. Before Google and Apple came along, the music industry was completely screwed. People were almost universally just using pirated download sites like Napster, etc. The music industry had no meaningful way to stop them. Google and Apple came in and saved them. Now they get paid billions a year from both Google and Apple. Is it as rich a business model as they had in the early 90s when people were buying CDs? No, but it's better than nothing... and nothing is what they would have otherwise. They are not going to be happy about it because they still want their CD cash, but they would probably all be out of business or doing who knows what if the Silicon Valley companies wouldn't have sorted out their market for them.

      1. Terrance Brennan

        Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

        Patents and copyright are two different beasts. The example you give is a good example of the difference. MSFT patents something they never used or knew how to use. An author actually puts out a piece of work and wants his rights to it protected.

        I agree there is great room for improvement in both systems; but, they both are supposed to provide protection for people who actually create new things so they are rewarded for their work. Unfortunately, the patent system has gotten a bit carried away with itself.

    3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

      Mr Cobb, as a creator of fiction, I am touched that you are willing to give me a very limited monopoly for a limited amount of time. That's very generous of you. And you are confident that, even though you deprive me of my earnings, I will continue to gladden your life with what I produce. (I am using myself merely as an example. Fill in with your favorite composer writer, film-maker).

      There is no 'balance of interests'. The interests of the user is to have what I do and pay as little as possible for it. Put any two other groups here: car-makers and customers, for instance, or soft-drink manufacturers and customers. Where do Fiat or Toyota bow down to users interests? Where should they? Does Coca-cola admit that they need to loosen their grip on their product, in the interests of the consumer? But when it comes to products from a person's mind (a song, a book), suddenly it's something else and the creator is not allowed to own it in the same way. Geez, even a mom-and-pop corner store has more rights than you would allow, say, Steve Reich or Leonard Cohen or Michael Chabon.

      1. Graham Cobb

        Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

        But when it comes to products from a person's mind (a song, a book), suddenly it's something else and the creator is not allowed to own it in the same way.

        On the contrary, like all property they can own it until they choose to sell it or give it away. It is you who are trying to claim that IP is somehow different from real property! If I build a house I can sell it to someone. They can do whatever they like with it, including sell it to someone else or build an extension. They can even copy it and sell the copy if they want.

        Without society's gracious willingness to give IP some additional protections to the normal rules of ownership that is all that creators would have. The first time they sold someone their book, or played their song, the item would be available to be sold on, or copied. That is how property works. However, society is aware that in that case artistic creation would not be worthwhile (copying a book has always been a lot cheaper than copying a house) so we have granted creators additional rights, beyond the right of ownership, to limit copying for a limited time.

        Of course that is worthwhile (as I said, I believe copyright has value). But don't try to pretend that there is some sort of "natural right" involved. There is not. Your only "natural right" is to be able to sell each thing you create once at whatever price you can get, or decide not to sell it at all. That is what we all choose.

        So, there is a bargain to be obtained between creators and consumers. That bargain trades money for limited additional rights (copyright). Like any bargain, the prices involved are finite (copyright can't be unlimited) and will be different for different people. But we have not (yet) found a way for the bargain involved to be different for each person which is why I said the copyright office should be trying to balance: they should be administering the creation of this bargain.

  6. John Lilburne

    Us peasant need to rebel.

    The internet is now in hock to tax avoiding, property stealing, privacy invading, and soul eating tech corporations. Stop uploading stuff that these blood suckers need.

    Lets start by demanding an internet free of Google.

    1. stizzleswick
      Thumb Up

      Re: Us peasant need to rebel.


    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Us peasant need to rebel.

      U.S. peasants are more afraid of gun grabbing, gays, union commies, brown people and mosslims than actually protecting their important rights.

    3. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: Us peasant need to rebel.

      Unfortunately peasants don't care. They never have. Only the intellectuals care and that's become a dirty word now.

    4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Us peasant need to rebel.

      You can have an Internet free of Google - just stop using Google. Blacklist all Google addresses in your firewall to get your system to do it for you.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Us peasant need to rebel.

      Lets start by demanding an internet free of Google.

      Don't forget Facebook, Twitter and all the other 'Anti-social network' sites.

      I had a photograph claimed by someone else who had somehow obtained a copy of it via a link they found on social media. They issued a DMCA takedown and suddenly my own website was gone from the internet search engines. No one came to ask me if I was really the owner. I could have easily proved that I was but never got asked. The image was originally taken on Film. I have the negative complete with timestamps imprinted between frames.

      Took me almost 2 years to resolve. I had to threaten to take the other party to court to prove that they were there when I took the picture.

      I took my site down and now I have ZERO of my pictures on the internet.

      so F**k Google and their ilk.

      Time they got charged with aiding and abbetting crimes against humanity.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Us peasant need to rebel.

        I think your ire is wrongly directed

        A key problem in copyright takedowns is that they can be made easily and there is no cost for making them and redress for making an incorrect takedown (unless, as you found you take legal action)

        Indeed there is even a business model based on this to take down content you do not like...

        Copy the content to your site but tweak the dates so looks older than original legit content

        Send out infringement takedown notice to the original site..

  7. Eric Olson

    Brought to you by Disney....

    The old "How will my great-grandchildren survive if they can't continue to collect revenue from exclusive licenses of my works?!" argument.

    Yes, creators need a chance to recoup investment and make a profit on their works. Why that should be an exclusive monopoly for the life of the creator plus another lifetime is one of the great mysteries.

    Computer code and articles aside, protecting any published work for what could very well be 120+ years is just asinine. And of course, the numerous ways in which copyright is circumvented (those of you saying authors are protected have clearly not seen fanfic, or seen it turned into major motion pictures) means that copyright is only valuable to those with deep pockets and lawyers to spare. The rest of us mortals can and will get fucked.

    A popular website known for listicles has been repeatedly torched for lifting, wholesale, content from other online sources and repackaging it without attribution, links, or even acknowledging it might have been copied from another location. But the creators, some from other popular sites with their own lawyers, have realized that there isn't a damn thing they can do other than try to round up a posse on Twitter. Because copyright law is broken and is only good for large companies with ravenous lawyers on retainer who can fire off expensive cease and desist letters.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Brought to you by Disney....

      Mr Olson, I agree that 70 years after death is a joke. I could see, perhaps, 10 years beyond death just to get things sorted out, and for the estate to have that 'commemorative re-issue' royalties, rather than these going to the publisher or whoever. But I don't see why I can't have the rights to my own work for my entire lifetime Why should someone else get to profit from my work just because I wrote something, say, 40 years ago? I have written and published things 40 years ago and I see them as entirely mine, just as I would see a photograph is I was a professional photographer or a film if I were a director.

      Copyright law is not broken it has just been skewed. But at the heart of it is an understanding that intellectual property is still property. Nobody demands that say, Stanley or Black & Decker give up designs to a few power-tool just because these are 40 years or 30 years old. The law recognises that these continue to have value and that the creator would have that value. But when it's a poem, suddenly it belongs to everyone.

      1. Radbruch1929

        Re: Brought to you by Disney....

        Easy: Because your communication on the internet used patents that expired after 20 years. In consequence, they can now be used free of charge and you reap the benefit without paying the inventors.

        On a further note, your poem is only appreciated because a *lot* of *other* people did put the effort in and invented poetic form, verse etc. I am even going to include the school system without which troglodytes such as me might not even appreciate your poem.

        You are standing on the shoulders of giants. Your poem is not "just yours" but requires a cultural background (paid for by others). And the discrimination against inventors (patents: 20 years protection for a right that requires an expensive registration and is vetted against prior art; copyright: minimal requirement of originality, no costs, no registration, no vetting but a seemingly endless term of protection) is going far enough already.

      2. Eric Olson

        Re: Brought to you by Disney....

        The Copyright Clause of the US Constitution gave the federal government the legal requirement to make laws that respect creators and their works for a limited period of time. The last piece is important, and as originally enshrined in legislation was 14 years, with the chance to reapply for another 14 years. That was a total of 28 years... probably half a lifetime in those enlightened times.

        Europe did their own thing and quickly settled (well, sometime in the late 19th or early 20th) on lifetime of the creator, plus 50 years.

        Probably should middle those and call it good. And of course, there's the reality that The Mouse built an empire on public domain works that they only moved to a new medium (animated films and/or television), and then had the gall to turn around and say those works, plus the other somewhat original works, should be protected forever (somewhere 75 and 125 years for "works for hire".)

        As far as B+D designs, those are patents (probably). And they have different rules and tend to expire much more quickly. At the same time, patents can be abused in other ways...

  8. Jonjonz

    Why doen't the US attorney general prosecute Google?

    You can quickly find current blockbuster films, new and old popular music streaming for free from Google along with big corporate paid adverts stitched into the content, and no one, from the copyright holders to the those charged with upholding copyright does a thing. For all intents and purposes Google has executed a fait acomplil with copyrighted digital media.

  9. my fingers stuck

    woop woop a copyright free for all

    cant wait for it to happen, gonna get some snippets from windows, android and ios, then gonna create my own super dooper operating system...

  10. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Of course, we can have an internet that allows information to flow freely, but that respects the individual’s property rights."

    Technically, we could even have an internet without G00gle. Imagine that.

  11. Milo Tsukroff

    Far Too Long - thanks to Disney

    Copyright is now 75 years from the _death_ of the creator. That's far too long. But thanks to Disney and its pron-scare tactics, the US Congress extended it that far. IMO, that's beyond most people's lifetimes, therefore effectively unlimited, and violates the US Constitution's requirement in Section 8. That reads, in part, "by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;". It's the "limited" part that is now being violated. But in the US, the New Golden Rule holds true: He who has the gold, rules. In the case of Copyright, Disney holds the gold. 'Nuff said.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Far Too Long - thanks to Disney

      It's not just commercial companies abusing copyright. Hospitals (charities) do it too. And ironically with material that Disney have since annexed.

      Both have extend copyright terms long after death of the original author. Now here's the difficult question; why would one organisation be more justified to do this over another?

      Ha ha. "Peter Pan copyright" is such an apt title. Forever young...

    2. User McUser

      Re: Far Too Long - thanks to Disney

      It's the "limited" part that is now being violated.

      Well *technically*, it *is* limited, even if they keep extending it. (See also "Eldred v. Ashcroft")

      Even assuming that this extension continues unabated (perhaps some sort of copy-right extending robots can take over once the lawyers all die?), the sun will eventually consume the Earth in roughly 4.5 billion years.

      Or in the worst-case scenario if we've arranged for some off-planet backup lawyers to be cached somewhere safe, the heat-death of the universe will arrive in about 10^100 years; ironically this is "one googol" years from now.

  12. Suricou Raven

    Lack of respect for a law.

    People have no respect for copyright law any more. Or a lot of other laws too, but let's focus on copyright. Why is this the case, and what can be done to fix it?

    Firstly, people won't respect any law that they see being violated with great frequency and little risk of enforcement action. But copyright is practically impossible to enforce online - this has been the case ever since the introduction and immediate explosive growth of Napster.

    Secondly, people won't respect a law that they see as being crafted to benefit a particular group that they are not a part of. That's not how copyright was intended, or how it used to be, but as copyright terms grow so respect for the law lessens. It is hard to believe that copyright law exists to give creators an economic incentive to create and the chance to make a living from doing so when the copyright term is seventy years after the creator is dead. While it's true that every person is technically able to benefit from copyright protection, few actually have need to do so.

    There are some ways to fix this, but they are legally difficult. The first one isn't a policy issue, it's a cultural issue. Culture carves its own course, subject only to a little direction via forceful nudges by those trying to steer it. There's no hope of effective copyright enforcement on an individual level, but there are other routes. Apple, Amazon and Netflix have gone some way towards this by providing a means of legally getting access to desired content that is every bit as convenient as piracy yet also easily affordable. In the end though, I think it just has to be accepted that casual copyright infringement is and will remain rampant.

    You could try education campaigns, but these have a poor history. Such things as Don't Copy That Floppy, Knock-Off Nigel and You-wouldn't-steal-a-car have provided rich fuel for satire, but they haven't actually achieved their objective at all. People are stupid, but they are not complete idiots - they can recognise blatant attempts to manipulate them.

    The second part is easier though: Shorten the copyright term. A lot. If you did that then you might see fewer people decrying copyright as corporate welfare. This is unlikely to happen though - it would require international negotiations, while being fought by some of the world's most skilled and well-funded lobbyists. You might also consider looking to the French model, rather than American, which puts more focus on the non-commercial rights of individual creators (Attribution is very important) rather than viewing copyright as purely a source of profit and economic incentive. Very few people are going to make a significant amount of money off of works they have created personally, but anyone who has doodled a crude sketch and uploaded it to DeviantArt will be able to take pride in their creation.

  13. zen1

    Google has a problem with copyrights because other people are making money from something and they aren't.

  14. scubaal

    heres a thought

    could we make copyright a little easier for mere mortals?

    how hard is it when you are creating a lovingly illustrated presentation to work what the friggin copyright on an object is - let along comply with it. following the provenance of every photo you come across is painful in the extreme, when they've been copied 1000x. I agree with *reasonable* copyright, I want to do the right thing, so couldn't we embed the copyright/ownership info in the metadata somehow? Couldn't I just press a button that would total all the cents (if any) and tell me my presso will cost $4.50 - distributed to all the rights owners (or not if its free). Couldn't that same button provide a preformatted source reference/copyright list.

    Ok rant over - its just I do this a lot and even if you *try* to do the right thing it seems to hard for the average Joe or Joanne.

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