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The Republican Study Committee released a report on Friday that is so brilliant and visionary it's difficult for me to believe it was written by Republicans. You can read it in its entirety (in text format) on my reference blog.

The original link to that paper was here -- you'll notice that link now just goes to a blank page.

That's because of how good ideas in Washington work these days. The Republican Study Committee wrote a concise article outlining the problems with copyright law and suggesting some commonsense solutions to those problems.

Then the lobbyists started calling.

However, as soon as it was published, the MPAA and RIAA apparently went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report. They succeeded. Even though the report had been fully vetted and approved by the RSC, executive director Paul S. Teller has now retracted it, sending out the following email to a wide list of folks this afternoon:
The spineless bastard answering the phones at the Republican Study Committee had this to say to cover for his quivering jell-o bosses: Yesterday you received a Policy Brief on copyright law that was published without adequate review within the RSC and failed to meet that standard.

...among other, more boring things.

You can of course read the whole thing on my web site, but I'll go into some of the problems they (correctly) identify with current copyright law and their suggestions for how to overhaul it to actually work and not just create a bunch of welfare queens with names like Warner Brothers and Viacom:

First, the three myths:

1. The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content
2. Copyright is free market capitalism at work
3. The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity

They go into some detail making the cases for each of these points, and they're solid enough that if you want to argue them you should start by reading the first part of the paper. I want to reiterate that this is the REPUBLICAN Study Committee.

They go on to point out the absurdity of US Copyright law, pointing specifically to the DJ/remix scenes that are closed off by intellectual copyright restrictions to American artists, before coming to a proposal for new copyright law almost enough to get me to change parties:

Below is a suggestion for one such proposal:

A. Free 12-year copyright term for all new works – subject to registration, and all existing works are renewed as of the passage of the reform legislation. If passed today this would mean that new works have a copyright until 2024.
B. Elective-12 year renewal (cost 1% of all United States revenue from first 12 years – which equals all sales).
C. Elective-6 year renewal (cost 3% of revenue from the previous 12 years).
D. Elective-6 year renewal (cost 5% of revenue in previous 6 years).
E. Elective-10 year renewal (10% of ALL overall revenue – fees paid so far).
That would give us a maximum copyright of 46 years, with a sliding scale making it more expensive to renew copyright, as opposed to the 120 years for corporate copyright we have now. Consider that: How useful to the public domain will Pac Man be when its copyright expires in May 2100?

So, there you have it. How does an organization that depends on public support manage to find itself so out of sync with the times as the Republican Party? If a good idea manages to peek out like a sunflower on a highway, they have an army of lawyers and lobbyists on call to make sure it dies right there.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The sliding scale wouldn't necessarily make it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ssgbryan

    more expensive over time.  If you don't sell anything, but just want to keep something off the market so as not to compete with your earlier works, you get 46 years of copyright basically for free.

    Suspect very little of the profit of a copyrighted work comes after 10 years.  There are certainly exceptions, and the birth of the ebook / streaming video / etc. could certainly change that, since it becomes cheaper and cheaper to keep old books available, but then the issue becomes one of discovering the copyrighted work.

    •  No, a great deal of profit can come after 10 years (0+ / 0-)

      It really just depends on the property. Think about The Wizard of Oz....Think about the entire Disney animated film archive. Think about The Lord of the Rings.

      Sure, most books and movies fade into profitless oblivion after 24 years.  But not all.  And the big drivers of the unending copyright protections are really the film companies.  This revision could finance the Library of Congress in style for a long time.

  •  this is pretty reasonable (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, Geiiga

    and a  sensible framework.  Are you sure a repubicker thought it up?

  •  Copyright. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill, kurt

    The purpose of copyright is to provide an incentive for people to create, by giving them a limited-time monopoly on copying the work. In exchange, the work eventually enters the public domain. It's not an example of the "free market", it is a government construct. Copyright keeps getting extended and extended, does adding more and more decades to copyright really give added incentive to anyone?

    Physical property is a classic "natural right", government doesn't create the property, it only provides added protection to what you can already do. You can lock your door to protect your property, even in Somalia.

    But copyright is not a natural right, it's a government creation. Without government, anyone who sees your work can make one just like it.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 07:38:46 PM PST

    •  Yep, totally right (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, bosdcla14, A Citizen

      The problem, of course, is that the "limited-time" part of that is no longer true.

      matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

      by zegota on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 08:20:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Limited times (0+ / 0-)

        The Constitution doesn't specify what "limited times" means. The eternal copyright people claim that that is a loophole allowing indefinite extension. I don't agree, of course, at some point any reasonable person would say that the the copyright term is too long to qualify as limited times.

        I don't think that reducing copyright terms is going to happen, I'm just hoping that no further extensions take place. Maybe we should just give Mickey Mouse an extension, just so everything else doesn't get dragged with out. Our culture is the public domain. Walt Disney made a living mining the public domain for his movies. A number of the original source materials he used would have still been under copyright if today's copyright terms had been in place then.

        Humans have been telling and retelling stories since humans first sat around the campfire. Eternal copyright is stagnation.

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 07:13:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  others would disagree. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney

      the French notion would see copyright as a moral right and very much a natural right.

      I think the notion of natural rights is superstitious, quasi-theology, so I don't think copyright can be distinguished on that basis.

      •  Natural rights are legal fictions, of course. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geiiga

        We treat some rights as if they are natural rights, and treat others as if they are lesser things, more amenable to changes. I consider "We hold these truths to be self-evident" to be different than "These truths are self-evident". In my opinion, the former says "We're going to behave as if these truths are self-evident." Thus, we treat them like that.

        But in another sense, a natural right is simply one that exists whether or not government exists. You could look at physical property like that, you can still have possessions even without government: locks and pockets work without government.

        Copyright is different, it is utterly meaningless without government. With physical property, you have at least some means of protecting your possessions, but with intellectual property, you don't. If I invent something, anyone else can look at it and make one of their own, and there's nothing I can do about that. Only government can protect intellectual property.

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 07:05:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  for initial term (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ciganka, kurt, Geiiga

    For the initial term, I think 20 years[symmetry with patent law] and no registration makes more sense.  There needs to be some protection for things like this diary/comments and I don't think it is reasonable to expect people to register the copyright themselves.  

  •  The nation's problem in a nutshell (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ciganka, bosdcla14, jabney, Geiiga

    If someone proposes a genuinely market-friendly policy, then corporate moochers who depend on not having to compete use their influence to block it.

    To put it another way, if it's a legitimate reform, the lobbying machine has ways of shutting that down.

  •  Thanks for preserving this document (5+ / 0-)

    against the censorship attempts from big business.

  •  Mark Twain argued persuasively that (0+ / 0-)

    an author should be able to retain all rights to his work until his death, and then the rights should pass to his heirs. In 1906 Congress was considering extending the term of copyright, which was 42 years, to the life of the author plus 50 years. Clemens spoke in favor:

    I know we must have a limit, but forty-two years is too much of a limit. I am quite unable to guess why there should be a limit at all to the possession of the product of a man's labor. There is no limit to real estate. Doctor [Edward Everett] Hale has suggested that a man might just as well, after discovering a coal-mine and working it forty-two years, have the Government step in and take it away.

    What is the excuse? It is that the author who produced that book has had the profit of it long enough, and therefore the Government takes a profit which does not belong to it and generously gives it to the 88,000,000 of people.

    But it doesn't do anything of the kind. It merely takes the author's property, takes his children's bread, and gives the publisher double profit. He goes on publishing the book and as many of his confederates as choose to go into the conspiracy do so, and they rear families in affluence. And they continue the enjoyment of those ill-gotten gains generation after generation forever.

    •  That was a valid point in the days of dead trees. (0+ / 0-)

      Although it's not the publisher it's about, it's the rest of the world. Take remixes, as the paper notes. Because of our stupid copyright laws, every DJ is infringing copyright.

      Look at film, where copyright laws were just a little less stupid. The guys that made Mystery Science Theatre 3000 made a living off the rich veins of public domain works that lost their copyright in a day we were saner about such things.

      "All things are true. Even false things. Don't ask me, man, I didn't do it." -Mitt Romney

      by Geiiga on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 07:17:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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