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Can Beethoven send takedown requests? (wikimediafoundation.org)
530 points by janoszen on Aug 31, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 310 comments

I used to have a Youtube channel where I posted videos of me playing the piano. I played mostly Mozart, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff compositions. I had around 40 videos in total. Sometime around 2014, I started getting DMCA takedown notices from various companies claiming copyright. I was getting one or two per week and I contested them and things were ruled into my favor. But then it started getting harder and harder to contest them and I even lost the ability to upload. It got so bad that one day several (3 or 4, don't remember anymore) notices were filed and Google didn't rule on them fast enough.

I had to close the channel because my account was locked for one full day and I couldn't do a thing. I had too many emails inside of Gmail and didn't want to lose them so I gave up. I'm still pissed about it and how Youtube and Google run things.

I always found it interesting that under YT rules content creators have the "3 strikes and you're banned" rule hanging over their heads but those who falsely claim copyright can do so with impunity. I still remember one company that ended up falsely claiming copyright over 10+ of my videos and they did so against one or two videos per week. Nothing was ever done about them.

Same experience from me: they run thing really bad.

A TV company came to our office doing a report. They gave us the video, and I uploaded it to YouTube as a private video to share it internally. After a week the private video has maybe 20 views. Months later I receive a copyright claim from the TV network. Their contact email obviously didn't work, and since I'm not a content creator I don't really care about my YouTube channel. So my account ended up being locked/limited during 6 months for a private video that had 0 views since several months...

What a mess.

Wait what the hell - getting blocked on YouTube would stop you reading your GMail? Did I really read that correctly?

Yep. You do not have an account on each, you have a Google account that allows you to access all of google's services. And once it is closed, it is game over.

Most people didn't notice this until G+ hit the net, and some kids used their gmail account (set up with parental knowledge and support) got closed because G+ found out they were under 13.

Others have discovered that if their app on Google Play gets into trouble, bye bye gmail etc.

It is a downright hamfisted system, and likely an outcome of Google's drive to automate all the tings...

Yes. That's just one reason why I'll never use Gmail.

Agreed. Switching away from gmail was one of the best things I’ve done in recent years.

I’m not sure this is entirely true across all services. I’m banned from AdWords (long story, I was slinging açaí berries around 2008 when I was 16...), but my account works for all other google services.

Were you buying ads or hosting them? They're a whole lot nicer to ad buyers.

And this is specifically why, as I select for my biz an upgraded email service provider, even though Google/GMail has a solid service & good prices, they are completely disqualified.

Yeah. I am personally abandoning GMail specifically because I want to be able to upload stuff to YouTube.

You know a company is mismanaging things when they're doing things that are against their own interests.

> I am personally abandoning GMail specifically because I want to be able to upload stuff to YouTube

Can't you just make another account for videos?

Google will work out that the accounts are operated by the same person and forcibly link them together. They may then decide that you are abusively trying to evade their restrictions and permanently ban all of your accounts.

Wait really? Any links on this? I don't recall hearing of this happening.

My accounts were created separately in the early days of YouTube and they got linked against my will. It doesn’t show up as my gmail account in YouTube because I kept rejecting their “please merge” requests, but besides the display name, they’re essentially merged and I have to log in with my gmail account. I don’t use my gmail for anything else anymore so I don’t care, but it was frustrating back when it happened. I know it’s just anecdotal and not a proper reference like you requested..

Oh, but you're talking about a pre-Google YouTube account being merged with a Google account, not two Google accounts being linked, right? Those are pretty different things.


That's complete nonsense. Have any hard evidence to share?

There was a post on here (HN) a while ago about an entire company account getting suspended because Google had linked an employee of that company to his personal google account which was being used to re-sign Android apps for redistribution.

It’s an extreme example, but if that account is true, google definitely have automated tooling to link distinct accounts.

I can’t actually imagine any reason why they wouldn’t. It feels like something they’d need at their scale.

I actually have a few gmail accounts that are "Youtube banned" for same content ID thing but the mail/drive/whatever part of it still works. So the "Google account wide" ban seems pretty rare and more motivated than just 3 copyright strikes.

Thanks for this data point!

That's nonsense. They have banned the entire org in this case, not linked accounts that weren't before.

Actually, it is not because I particularly care about uploading videos to YouTube (never done it, no particular plans to do it), but with the fact that Google specifically and forcibly links everything.

Sure, in some ways, the fusion is very convenient.

But I've read a few too many credible stories about how a loyal Google customer does some innocuous action that happens to set off one of Google's triggers, and is instantly banned from the entire ecosystem.

Google's complete lack of customer support, and indeed hostility to the concept of ever being reachable by or accountable to a user just makes it worse.

Bottome line; Google is ok for casual use, but as a biz, I'll never touch them, and advise others to avoid like the plague.

>It is a downright hamfisted system, and likely an outcome of Google's drive to automate all the tings...

Google's drive... Had to read that twice, for a moment I got really confused about my cloud storage subscription!

Given the discussion, just make sure that all files you have saved in Google Drive are also available to you elsewhere lest Google get mad at you.

Who was sending these notices? Sounds like perjury to me.

Welcome to the DMCA. It's as broken as copyright and causing quite serious stifling of young creators. It sometimes feels like it's used more for evil than for its legitimate purpose.

Takedown notices on Youtube are not handled under DCMA. DCMA has protections against false accusations.

More like "DMCA theoretically has protections against false accusations, but instances of people being held accountable are extremely rare."

Knowingly making a false DMCA claim is perjury, and IMO it should be treated as such. Instead companies send out automated claims in the thousands and then come back with "but we didn't know it was wrong, it was the bot!" and get away with it.

Hi there. Plaintiff here from OPG v Diebold, the first successful case enforcing 512f against knowingly false DMCA takedowns where the defendant was found guilty and owed several hundred thousand dollars in damages. It can and does happen and there is court precedent. Contact EFF if you're on the receiving end of an obviously bad DMCA takedown.

Bravo, now if it could become standard practice.

Having bots flagging videos is the source of the issue in the first place, there should be a captcha and DCMA requests should be manual.

The process Google has set up is an outcome of DCMA, because Youtube can only operate as long as they can claim DCMA "safe harbor" status.

Yeah I don't know what people expect. YT is huge now, they are being watched by governments and corporations alike. The days were you could find entire movies on YT or Al qaida recruitment videos is long gone. If Google steps out of line everyone is immediately at their throat.

>It sometimes feels like it's used more for evil than for its legitimate purpose.

That's exactly what it is used for. It's a multibillion dollar industry that will always ask for more and more power to police their imaginary property. They even coerce other countries into adopting similar laws as part of trade agreements. I'm convinced that copyright infringement is moral and akin to civil disobedience.

Seems? More like its mainly used in this way nowadays. There is no risk in sending DMCA notices so of course its abused.

Wonder if we can return the favour? If someone sends us an obvious unfair takedown (like in the article) we can name and shame them. And also do the same tactics, go to their content and report it as violation of your content. Even if it doesn't they still have to respond and go through the same hoops.

If a group of us formed and we did this to all of them and gunged up the system, google would be forced to improve it.

> And also do the same tactics, go to their content and report it as violation of your content.

This might work between rival game streamers or something but the law offices of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe likely do not have a YouTube channel for you to retaliate against.

But you could find out who is legitimately using that copyright on YT and retaliate against them. For instance, if you use a clip of a Prince song that is taken down, and you determine that BMG music owns the Prince catalog, you could send automated infringement requests against PrinceVEVO or any official BMG uploads.

Even better if you created a "burner" corporation. Ie P.O. box in Delaware and act on their behalf. They have to take you seriously because corporation, amirite?

YouTube is far more broken for small to medium content creators than the big guns.

IMO the way to go is to get their contact details out of the copyright claim and sue them in small claims court.

YouTube is broken for anyone that isn’t a giant media corporation, or very heavy ad buyer. The biggest YouTuber on the platform regularly gets false copyright claims, DCMAs, etc.

Perhaps an automated system like the defunct BlueFrog anti-spam system (which worked too well)?

Alternatively they would get better at filtering out your requests.

It's seems to me it's doing what the people who paid for it want.

All these schemes are to stifle and own

It isn't perjury. In the DMCA, It is illegal for me to send copyright notices about you infringing a work I don't own, but it is not illegal for me to send a copyright notice about a work I do own - say a film - even if the page doesn't actually contain any of that film.

Apart from classical music, bird noises and ambient noises are common cases of inaccurate YouTube takedowns.

These are not DMCA notices, but YouTube's/Google's own copyright cop they implemented to pacify the big media companies.

It's notorious for false positives and how impossible those false positives are to resolve.

>Who was sending these notices?

There's lots of them. The most notorious one I had to deal with was Adrev. There are reports of people getting notices from AdRev for videos that don't even have any music in them. [1]

[1] https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/youtube/42xLe...

Is this a new evolution of patent trolling? Except you don't even need a patent anymore...?

Copyright trolling?

Of course it already exists /sigh.

Seems like this is a great way to do copyright trolling - it's highly scalable and exists within a walled garden which means it's a legal grey area for things like this, much like how free speech on YouTube/Reddit isn't really a thing.

There's lots of information here: https://talent.adrev.net/about

YouTube partners can upload a collection of files they claim rights on, and a YouTube bot will check any newly published video against anything in that database.

It's all automated. They don't verify if the claimant actually has the rights, this is left to the "dispute" process.

Sometimes multiple companies upload the same files. Sometimes the algorithm has false positives because the section of audio used is too short.

Sometimes they use your work in theirs, upload it and have YouTube flag your original as infringing.

I have to wonder why anybody still uses YouTube. It can't be the community.

it's the best video streaming platform. nothing comes close in terms on quality, speed, and amount of content

I mean, what could compete, in terms of raw audience?


Advertisers, and not content creators or viewers are Youtube's real customer, and their policies align with that. The whole existence of a take down procedure separate from, and more favorable to the take down issuer is evidence of that

Wait, why would an aggressive takedown procedure be favorable for advertisers? Advertisers just want popular videos on which they can put their ads, they don't care if the content is copyrighted or not.

Now, they probably care more about other types of censorship (for example, taking down offensive videos to avoid their brand being associated with them).

I think this is a good question. My suspicion is that the policy resulted from legal, rather than market forces. If that's true, then the fact that we the readers, viewers, listeners are the product sold to the advertisers is irrelevant.

As a viewer, it's routine to see classical recordings on YouTube claimed as/attributed to/ categorized as the wrong thing. It doesn't help that differences in two different recordings of, say, the same piano piece can be so similar in some respects, so as to trip up automatic systems. "Widespread systematic failure" is probably the best way to describe the current state of affairs.

This issue needs special attention, and classical videos ought to be treated as a special case, IMHO.

Worth noting that the reverse is also possible, i.e. recordings being altered only slightly, being able to fool human listeners into hearing them as being different, see for instance the fraudulent recordings attributed to Joyce Hatto.

> I always found it interesting that under YT rules content creators have the "3 strikes and you're banned" rule hanging over their heads

Does this include any linked Gmail accounts? Because that's heinous if so.

Any Gmail linked to your Google Account could be closed if they close any of your other services. If they ban your YT channel, your Google Account will be banned too.

YouTube copyright enforcement is bizarre. Claims against you seem unfounded if your playing classical works and if anyone could claim copyright of your performance is you, as it's a new performance and arrangement makes that your copyright.

I have used commercial tracks on videos I've posted and YouTube has authorised saying the copyright owner allows me too in exchange for me accepting adverts on my video.

I know they don't check copyright much, as I once got locked out of an old YouTube account I had, forgot the password and didn't have access to the email I signed up with. But I wanted the only video on the channel taken down, so I did a copyright complaint against myself, YouTube accepted it!

I wonder if you could do something like file a restraining order against the company to prevent them from communicating with you in the future.

How is this not considered fraud or theft?

Because Google is a private company and allowed to delete videos whenever they like (assuming you don't have a contract where they've agreed to host them for you or anything like that).

IMO YouTube ought to be regulated the same way as broadcast media used to, with things like the equal-time rule, but that's not the rule as it currently stands.

The Equal Time rule was strictly for political candidates. Perhaps you're thinking of the Fairness Doctrine, which only made sense when broadcast media were very limited.

There's got to be a good way to get Google to stop censoring one side of the political spectrum, but if we have to resort to legislation or regulation, we're doing it wrong.

If we can't, then I guess Google really is too powerful.

Edit: Google is evil. But Google is also free. If we can't counter the first without eliminating the second, then we have failed as a society.

The Fairness Doctrine never made any sense. It only required that contrasting viewpoints be presented for an issue of public import.

You could satisfy it, by discussing, say, gun control, and presenting two contrasting viewpoints: One that all guns should be banned, and one that all guns, except for ones used by police and security guards should be banned. A distinction without much of a difference (That is well within the scope of very limited political orthodoxy) is a contrasting viewpoint.

Regulation isn't the answer. Competition is the answer. So the question comes down to, is competition with YouTube possible? Or is Google a monopoly?

How does competition deal with the network effects inherent to this type of service? I as a user don't want to watch my videos on a dozen different websites. I'll use the site with the videos that are most important to me and ignore the rest.

Whenever you use YouTube, you're already watching videos on dozens of different websites. YouTube is made up of thousands of servers, if not hundreds of thousands, spread all over the world. You just use a user interface that hides the difference from you. Similarly, whenever you use BitTorrent, the different pieces of your file come from dozens or hundreds of different machines, operated by different people, none of whom have the ability to take the file down.

Yes, so this is ultimately a UI problem. What we need is not a monolithic website to compete with YouTube, what we need is a decentralized, federated 'video site' protocol.

Really, what we need is the web back. That is, the web as I remember it in the 90s, before Google came along, when groups of people who shared similar interests would link to each other and form webrings. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webring

BitChute is a front end for P2P torrents. And then there's Hola and other streaming frontends for torrents.

There's also PeerTube, which is a p2p YouTube clone using WebTorrents for distributing video, and which also utilizes the ActivityPub W3 recommendation for distributed federated social networking. [1]

[1] https://activitypub.rocks/

Yes, this is a good point. Then I guess YouTube is a common carrier and needs to be treated the way the FCC treats broadcast TV and cable.

How will you apply the equal time rule to political viewpoints?

To every political question, there are more answers then "A" or "B".

Are you going to give equal time to someone who wants to ban all guns, someone who wants to ban all guns in cities, someone who wants to ban all guns for people with criminal records, but not mental illnesses, someone who wants to ban all guns for people with mental illnesses, but not criminal records, someone who wants to ban guns for non-citizens, and someone who wants everyone to have a state-provided machine-gun? What about the other permutation of these viewpoints? Or are you just going to dump these questions into a 'left' and 'right' bucket, and say you're done, when the buckets weigh the same?

Relatedly: it's also much easier to come up with factually incorrect bullshit then it is to refute it. Any insights on how you want to deal with that problem?

At the very least tortuous interference in a contract.

Ah that sounds like such a frustrating experience. It may be selection bias since I'm on HN a lot, but this sounds like a common situation.

If you were a developer at YouTube, what do you think could be done to fix this? Personally, I think a starter is only suspending a user from the specific service they "violated" the TOS on instead of their who freaking account. I don't know how content-id works, but preventing double jeopardy for a flag sounds like a good starting point. Obviously getting human support is a train-wreck and it goes without saying that needs to be fixed.

Google randomly locking out users seems to be pretty common. I have had them randomly lock me out of google docs files for "ToS violations" only to have the file unlock a few days later. Ever since that happened I stopped using google services to store my stuff.

This isn't a developer level design decision. This is executive level.

> those who falsely claim copyright can do so with impunity

False accusations should be given the same punishment as the accused would have faced. The "flag" and "report" buttons are abused on every single platform, as any mod can tell us.

Would something like Media Goblin [1] work for you? It's easy to host, you can share the media how you see fit, and you control copyright, and they're are many ways to deploy to keep costs down.

I'm not saying this is easier than yt, but there are some trade offs worth making if you want to really have that level of control.

[1] https://mediagoblin.org/

>many ways to deploy to keep costs down.

If you or someone else has some suggestions for cheap media hosting, I'm all ears :)

The one thing I miss from Youtube was all the commenters and people who enjoyed me playing. I got a lot of satisfaction from that and it kept me going and posting more videos (it definitely wasn't the money since ad revenue was abysmal).

Hetzner VPS has 20TB of traffic per month for like 3 EUR. You could probably use torrents to save some more bandwidth. Maybe a Peertube instance?

Maybe there are other mechanisms for revenge :)

Trolls tend to own nothing themselves so they can sling out legal threats all day and not get any in return.

No infrastructure at all? No people to doxx?

The org that they send from will legally have nothing but patents so they are safe from counter attacks.

>those who falsely claim copyright can do so with impunity

It's a different enforcement mechanism. DMCA requires by law that YouTube affords people a way to report things. If it gets abused that's on the government to correct, YouTube hands are tied.

It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that Google is focusing on this the wrong way. Rather than automatically assume that ContentID is correct and notifying the user, it should instead notify the supposed owner of the music, and let them decide whether or not to make a claim. If the "owner" makes too many false claims then they should be banned form the service.

The problem is fundamentally that ContentID is done on the cheap.

Things would work better with human interaction on the requests by Google. But bluntly, if you want your video host to do due diligence, hire one that does. Google do a bad job of this because they're a free hosting provider, and as a video uploader you subsequently get what you pay for.

Why do they even need to use ContentID? What’s in it for YouTube?

If someone wants to complain about infringement, they should be required to send a certified letter to YouTube detailing the exact infringement along with providing proof they are in control of the offending work.

These guys send out hundreds of thousands or millions of takedown requests each year. This is why everything is automated, because it would take an army to vet all of the claims.

Legally this make perfect sense to Google, as there are two options:

1. Take down everything requested. Creators get mad but they are a dime a dozen.

2. Don't take down everything because some of it isn't technically a violation. Get sued constantly by the media cartels. Get brought before Congress for "stealing from artists". etc...

One party in the dispute is rich and politically powerful, the other is not. There's really only one choice a large company like Google is going to make.

One party in the dispute is rich and politically powerful, the other is not.

...and ironically, a lot of us are quite worried about the other party also becoming "rich and politically powerful" too (although they do seem to be getting there...)

Youtube artists? I have not seen PewDiePie for President bumper stickers quite yet.

I was referring to Google vs. the media cartels.


IANAL, but as I understand it, Content ID is part of how they justify being a safe harbor under DMCA.

Not getting sued into the ground by publishers for DMCA issues.

Manually verifying copyright claims is expensive. Responding to take down notices manually is expensive. The alternatives that are as cheap to implement involve rampant copyright infringement.

I thought that was the way it works ? But they just hit the (virtual) "claim everything" button as fast as they can.

Maybe the problem is that Google can't ban them from the service legally ?

The problem is that by the time the victim has fought to have their video re-monetised or reinstated, it's "old". You have a very short time to make money on videos these days. Yes there's rare videos that gain longer term success or get dug up and go viral, but for the most part those first couple days are vital.

I'm not sure. I thought companies uploaded their work and then the claims were basically automated. But admittedly I don't have experience in this area.

Regardless, we need to start seeing punishment for false claims. Under DMCA, wrongful claims could result in the claimants being charged with perjury, but obviously nobody is enforcing this part of it.

This is how fighting patent trolls works too IIRC, companies can countersue for false litigation, increasing the risk of DMCA trolls

To make it equitable in this situation would seem to require allowing those initiating the counter suit to do so with zero risk. And as another poster pointed out, the value of the upload is significantly diminished after it had become "old", so this would all have to be handled before the post was even made public.

The diminished value of the upload is exactly what you would be suing over. You need damages to have a case.

Yes, I guess countersuit is the wrong word. I was wondering how the burden of proof could be equitable with contentID as broken as it is. Wouldn't all claims have to be settled before videos are publicized (creating a whole new set of problems).

Either that or allow the perjury clause of the DMCA enforceable against bots?

I think this would require Google to care, which they clearly do not.

They care...but they care for Goog

Google cannot afford to upset content owners. After all almost all YT depends on copyrighted content, so they err against small players. Can you imagine what would happen to YT if Disney, Comcast or major labels cracked down on having their content on YT?

Given how quickly music becomes "old" I don't understand why copyright needs to chain up music any longer than two decades (I'm being kinda generous, some songs are old after a few months / one to five years). I hate the state of copyrighted works. Movies can stay copyrighted for a good 40 to 50 years, anything else is crazy. Books maybe 50 years too, but again, it's just crazy and clear that the extended years of copyright only benefit record labels and other publishing corporations, and not truly the artists / authors who get decent money, but it's mostly chump change.

I like the solution we came up with earlier this year: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16163984

Ten years of free protection, then costing $10 × 1.5 ⁿ ⁻ ¹ for each subsequent year. Year 10 costs $0, year 20 about $380, year 30 about $22,000, year 40 about $1,300,000, year 50 almost $75,000,000—and few fifty-year-old things will be worth $75,000,000 per year and growing to retain copyright to.

Since we're talking music, I'd probably want a hybrid. This for passive protection, but say auto-extension free of charge if the creator still trades on it. So Aerosmith who continues to do performances of their work would be able to say they're actively protecting it (and when that stops, the clock starts against the previously described mechanism) whereas Led Zeppelin, or whoever owns the rights to their works, would be in this already and paying to retain protections (if they so choose).

Hey, this could even be a method of artists reacquiring rights to their works from labels: if an artist performs songs from their works 20 years ago and the label isn't interested in paying for this protection scheme, it can revert back to the artist until they decide to stop actively protecting the work. It gets dicey with two parties having rights to it, but structurally it would probably be akin to how if you pay tax on a dollar and give me the remainder, I should then still pay taxes on what I received from you, regardless of the fact you had paid taxes on it already.

Nah, keep it simple. The twentieth year is only up to $380, which is still chicken feed. Don’t add unnecessary complexity: make it simple enough that any layman can understand it completely.

Ah yes I love that, Disney keeps their rat and we all get more sane copyright.

I don’t think Disney would keep their rodent. Calculate the sum, and by about eighty years, $10 × 1.5 ⁶⁹ is some $14 trillion, so they’d have handily paid off the US national debt by then. Another fifteen years, to get back to the beginning of the sordid affair, would be mildly ruinous.

>so they’d have handily paid off the US national debt by then.

You did it! You found the solution to the national debt! Lets implement his right away!

I don't think that it makes sense to allow people to monopolize content indefinitely, nor do I think that it is appropriate to charge individuals for a copyright. The accounting involved in this scheme is also not going to make anyone happy; a flat n-year copyright term is much easier than an algorithm.

Because without Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (granting many extra years of copyright), Mickey Mouse would be public domain. Simple as that - the agenda is obvious. Expect similar "extension" push as 2024 approaches.

Nope. Mickey Mouse is not subject to copyright. As a character, he's subject to trademark, which allows him to remain under Disney's control for as long as they continue to protect the trademark.

What would go into the public domain is Steamboat Willie, the original Mickey Mouse short.

> What would go into the public domain is Steamboat Willie, the original Mickey Mouse short.

Steamboat Willie is likely to enter the public domain shortly, in fact.

As above: expect another attempt to push the copyright protection further, shortly.

> As above: expect another attempt to push the copyright protection further, shortly.

No, it really does appear that this time they've given up. There are articles that have written about this - If Disney were preparing for a big push, we'd have started to see it by now already.

which would allow people to publish fanfiction involving mickey mouse

You are indeed correct - and the copyright extension affected more than Steamboat Willie; going into the full scope would mean to venture into TL;DR territory.

> Given how quickly music becomes "old" I don't understand why copyright needs to chain up music any longer than two decades

You say that but the Beatles, Elvis, Beethoven, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson are all artists that had their heyday 30-60 years ago and are still the top selling artists. A lot of them are dead now because of varying reasons, but some are still alive and kicking and giving new performances of their 40 year old music.

Are you going to tell them they have no right to their own work anymore 20 years after they had one of their most successful releases?

> Are you going to tell them they have no right to their own work anymore 20 years after they had one of their most successful releases?

Are you claiming they wouldn't have made the music otherwise? It's hard to imagine such megastars deciding that the marginal effort of another hit album just wasn't worth making unless they could collect hypothetical revenue for more than 2 decades.

Copyright law is to incentivize creating these works so that more stuff can get into the public domain. We've shot well past that point with excessive durations, and the public domain is suffering.

Copyright law is to incentivize creating these works so that more stuff can get into the public domain.

You've drank too much kool-aid. Copyright law is to incentivize investments in creative works, not the creation itself. Most people that profit off of creative works have not created anything of value themselves.

According to US legal theory, the point of incentivizing investments is to increase how much money can be made by the creator, incentivizing creation.

To quote the Constitution, the purpose of copyright is "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." ie To increase how much creation there is.

It doesn’t matter if they created the work 20 years ago or not, it’s theirs. Can people go into your house 20 years after you build it and just say it’s their because they like the way it looks? Intellectual property is still property.

Intellectual property is not property in that way because you are not deprived of it when it is shared.

If you charged people $5 for a lifetime pass to hang out in and inspect your house, should they not be able to try to build their own version of your house 20 years later?

When you enter something into the culture, part of it leaves your control, and thats a good thing.

Many people would argue that information shouldn't be classified as property. Maybe it shouldn't be completely free to reproduce and share, but thinking of it as property has obvious negative effects.

Do you propose IP be treated similarly to real property? Maybe require a permit from the government before one writes a book or song to ensure that work will be in the public interest?

Then they should pay property tax on it.

> Are you going to tell them they have no right to their own work anymore 20 years after they had one of their most successful releases?

I work in software, as I assume many of us do. I don't assume an inherent right to gain perpetual income from my work. The vast majority of all employment operates this way.

I'm not sure how that reality doesn't undermine the idea that there exists some inherent right to prevent other people from, say, singing a song they heard (by getting a local authority to recognize you as the author of that song, and then stop others from singing that song and making money from their performances, by putting them in jail or fining them if they do, for example).

It's important to make a clear distinction between the kind of "right" copyright represents and, for example, the right to free expression.

The underpinnings of the rights are different. We assume that everyone legitimately starts off with the right to free expression.

It's not so clear that everyone starts off with some inherent legitimate right to prevent some dude two doors down from re-singing a song you came up with and sung to him.

It seems much more reasonable to view copyright as an artificial right: something we create to promote certain ends. The state is in no way obligated to provide the establishment of copyright (it's not a real "right"), so the justification for its bounds is entirely pragmatic: what benefit it has to society in general.

Copyright isn't here to protect the creator, but the copyrights holder. The great extension of copyright (way beyond the artist life) is there so a few copies holders keep their IPs for a handful of mega-successful acts: Mickey, The Beatles, Elvis,...

Screwing us all because they are still able to milk the cow is unfair. Money-making cannot be the only factor taken into account. Public domain is something we, as a society, deserve.

What happens right now is unacceptable.

If anything I'm more for stripping record labels of their copyright, an artist can keep their copyright till they die for all I care. Their families shouldn't depend solely on one artist's income. There's many angles to copyright, it's a complicated subject cause of it, but we need to take away all the noise of it, this legalized censorship against allegedly copyrighted works doesn't actually work is the main issue. Most artists don't even care that their fans download their music until their record labels have them say otherwise. Artists from what I recall make more money selling merchandise and doing concerts...

In fact, that right already exists (in the US), it's Section 203 - artists can terminate their copyright grants after 35 years after the publishing date.

That's quite insightful, now if only after 50 years it would be terminated, regardless of whether the artist is dead or alive. If they want to give them a renewed copyright grant or something that's another story, and it should end the moment the artist dies. Till death do us part indeed.

Copyright treats music, lyrics, and recording as separate entities. The recording of a song is a derivative work of music and lyrics. I'd strongly favor shortening the copyright on audio recordings, while keeping the copyright for music and lyrics strictly with the composer and writer, respectively, for a longer term.

The same could happen for video recordings and their screenplays.

I think maybe the "works for hire" regime needs to be changed such that employees own the copyright to their own contribution to a work, and the employer just gets an automatic perpetual license only to works created while on the job, exclusive only as long as the employee remains employed, and the final aggregated commercial product is a derivative work from many sources. So if you can reassemble the same team of actual humans as the original, you can re-do the work of putting their contributions together, and acquire a new copyright on a new aggregate that could be nearly identical to the older aggregate.

So you only hold a monopoly on a movie as long as the majority of key contributors in that long credits scroll at the end continues to work for you. If you fire too many people after production wraps up, particularly the script writers and scene planners and digital modelers, they could get together, compare notes, and do a shot-for-shot remake at a fraction of the budget, because their part of the work has already been done, and you lost exclusivity when you fired them.

That would surely invoke a new form of Hollywood Accounting, but at least it would encourage creators to create works with some durance in preference to consume-once ephemera. And you wouldn't end up with great artists in poverty even as their works make their current owners heaps of money.

It is still important work to turn an artwork into a viable commercial product, and to assemble and manage teams of artists to great something together greater than what could be produced individually, but that added value should not make the middleman the sole gatekeeper for the source works, forever.

> Artists from what I recall make more money selling merchandise and doing concerts

True, because every ass and his dog pirates music, thus the income from selling music is severely diminished. The amount of time it takes to produce/compose/record etc. music is not exactly trivial, and if you have to tour constantly in order to be able to pay the bills, then finding time and energy to create some new music to perform whilst on tour becomes quite problematic. Your "most artists don't care" statement is a crock of shit! Perhaps large established artists may not care so much, but if you're talking about "most artists" then they do care that income from their craft is being denied to them.

Can you provide some proof that "pirating" (I hate that word) had severely diminished sold copies? And I don't mean all those "studies" based on the false premise that downloaded records are lost sales.

Other commenters have mentioned about how pirating can increase exposure and in fact increase sales - Breaking Bad (which isn't music) is one big name example of this happening.

In any case, "album sales" is a very one dimensional view of the world. Even if fans were to pirate music, there is no way to pirate live performances - and exposure is one such way to boost sales of live performances so lost sales in albums is a very narrow slice of the entire ecosystem.

No I cannot, but conversely can you prove that is has not?

All I can proffer is anecdote that as bandwidth and the ubiquity of Internet increased over the years, the sales of music via the label I'm involved with diminished. All the while our artists and the label itself became more and more popular, so it seems entirely counter inuitive that sales should have been dropping.

I don't buy music from labels or online shops. I go to either an artists website or somewhere the artists will directly get the money from it or i'll buy albums from shows. I've probably paid for more music in the last few years than I did most of the time as a teenager. I feel a lot better giving my money to people who are more directly involved in creating the music than large companies that produce albums for them. Hell i've even bought some new recently produced vinyl albums in the last couple years. When I was young I refused to use places like hmv so all I did was either pirate or buy music from shows. Now i've replaced pirating with buying music online.

The thing is there's just so much music now. The artists you represent may be more popular but there's so much more competition for people's money. There's music i've bough I enjoy from artists whose shows i'll probably never get to see. I spend a lot of time listening to concerts and such these artists freely post online, i'm enjoying their music, legally, but I haven't paid for it.

There are a lot of things contributing.to lower album sales. Piracy, while i'm sure contributes doesn't seem to be the biggest problem. Plus i've been hearing this since I was a kid and cassette tapes were being blamed for killing the music industry because people could just record anything they want off the radio or a friend's cassette so album sales were dropping.

Labels get their money regardless of where you buy it from if they have a stake in the album/band.

I would bet the drop in album sales is more likely due to the rise of Spotify and other streaming services than piracy.

This. In fact researchers a few years back came to the conclusion that piracy increased sales due to easier discovery + exposure.

It is now, but the drop in record sales started before Spotify — it started with Napster and similar services. Spotify grew from a market reaction to those sales lost due to theft.

CD sales have fallen since 2000. Spotify, in your example, came out 8 years later.


Conversely, Napster was released in 1999.

Illegal downloads surely had an impact in the 2000s era, but I think by now the amount of freely streamable content is by far the largest factor.

Unlikely - streaming expanded the market for music.

I recall a report that showed that p2p networks acted primarily like a broadcast medium, which tuned to the most popular works.

The entire free content model has arisen because of tacit acknowledgement of that fact.

Youtube, hell everyone, applies those lessons today.

And, as I pointed out originally, there was about an 8 year gap between demise of album sales and the prominence of streaming.

The album is dead. Paid streaming is booming.

Albums aren't dead. Luckily, I can stream those too.

It's just more convenient. "Hey Siri, play the latest album by X" still works. Thank God.

Albums aren't dead for artists that are capable of making more than one good song.

Albums are only dead for artists who have to use filler to make the one hit song they managed to come up with fill a CD.

You say that like no-one would show up to a Paul McCartney concert if Beatles songs were public domain.

In actuality, the examples you listed are especially painful because we could be enjoying incredible derivative works based on their music, if not for the stupid way copyright works.

Music is a bad example since the rights system around making covers is incredibly generous compared to other mediums. The fact that just about every Beatles song has a cover in just about every style bears witness to that.

The mashup "genre" currently is full of amateurs, because copyright law won't allow you to make money off it. Sampling is used to great effect by hip hop artists, but only in very limited ways because they have to negotiate expensive licenses each time. If not for copyright, we'd see amazing innovations.

To get an idea what would be possible, listen to the Beastie Boys album "Paul's Boutique", which has been called "The Sgt. Pepper of Hip Hop". It liberally samples all kinds of sources (including Beatles), and the results are amazing, even with that limited 1989 technology. Unfortunately, shortly after that album was released, legal precedents around music copyright doomed any similar works until copyright law changes.

"Are you going to tell them they have no right to their own work anymore 20 years after they had one of their most successful releases?"

In a word, yes. The entire purpose of copyright is to enrich the commons by granting a limited term monopoly. Without that purpose in mind, copyright loses legitimacy.

It's a government granted right, and, in the US, there is specific authorization in the constitution to make such a grant. The term could be set to any term, and there would be no underlying constitutional of inherent human rights case against such a change. Unlike actual rights, copyright is whatever governments say it is.

All rights, human rights included, are just some arbitrary rules some part of humans have decided to follow.

These laws could also set the counter for let's say 5 years after the death of all of the original authors or something like that. There is no reason for these rights to transfer indefinitely.

In many constitutional systems, rights are assumed to exist, and rights are protected by wording that prohibit the government from infringing them.

That's not how patents and copyright work. These are government granted monopolies. The wording goes the other way around: The government is authorized to grant these monopolies. That's very unlike rights to life, property, etc. Patents and copyright don't come from the same tradition as proper human rights. They're different, and there is no human rights argument against limiting them sharply, at least not in the US constitution.

You need to read the US Declaration of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The signers knew what they were doing was against the Kings laws - but they said, for the first time, there are higher laws that everyone is entitled to. Copyright and patents, while maybe good law, are not among these.

For me the important thing is that _they said_ that there are higher laws. Don't take me wrong, I do like the human rights and all. But they are just a man made construct, there is no higher power bestowing any of them upon us–it is up to humanity to ensure that we keep them.

A lot of those people laying bricks are still around. Are you going to tell me they have no right to their own work anymore 20 years after they laid those bricks?

After all they are still alive and kicking and people are still walking on those streets many years later.

We 'knowledge workers' have it pretty easy compared to the people doing physical work. 30 years should be plenty for all media.

Different situation. Brick layers are getting their full salary when they work. Content creators don't have a salary, but a recurring revenue from sales.

Plenty of content creators have one time pay: session musicians, contract programmers. Copyright then gets transferred to those milking the cow.

Plenty of content creators are salaried employees as well.

Oh god this just gave me the dystopian vision of companies offering streets as a service, where you pay for every cobblestone as you drive over it.

It's called a toll-road and France is full of them.

I, for one, would say they should have no right to it.

Hell, everyone you mentioned became a millionaire during their career. If all of them stopped receiving royalties for any of their releases after one measly year, they'd have made more money than I'm ever likely to make. Superstars have most to lose in absolute terms if copyright got nerfed, but in relative terms they'd still do fine. Many of the most successful performers of the last century became multimillionaires before they even turned 20.

Monetary value and cultural value shouldn't be conflated. Folk music and Shakespeare plays are very popular and highly regarded despite being public domain. Not to mention that people actually make money with them.

Pink Floyd would make a mint by touring even if all their albums were in PD. You can start a Floyd cover band all you like but for some reason most fans would still prefer to see the genuine article.

Anyone can legally perform any piece of music because copyright law contains a provision called a "compulsory license." This is how an artist can "cover" someone else's song. Congress deemed music too important to allow the author to lock it up for years. An author automatically grants a license to anyone who wants to perform a piece at a rate per second per person fixed annually.

Do you still profit from software you have written for hire 20 years ago?

IBM storming in Yes, I do :)

If it wasn't a work for hire, you can.

If patents can expire after 20yrs why is copyright special?

Because Disney didn't have any patents on Mickey Mouse cartoons.

One thing I find bewildering is how the ownership of a song is far longer than the ownership of a recording.

I remember reading about (very liberal) Randy Bachmann supporting a very conservative copyright plan, and being confused... but it was explained that his earlier recordings were going to be public domain while he still lived. That was his worry - that he would cease to own his first albums. Not the songs, which are covered constantly, but the actual albums.

To me, it's exactly backwards that recordings have a short shelf-life (X0 years), while writings compositions have a long one (X0 years after death of author). It seems far more important to me to allow new artists to iterate on old art, than it does to set the actual original recorded performance of that art free.

> Given how quickly music becomes "old"

That only applies to crappy pop music. Good music endures for decades and centuries.

This reminds me a lot of the experiment someone did uploading white noise: “My ten hour white noise video now has five copyright claims”[1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16075325

Copyright should only have a term of life (with a minimum duration of 50 years in case the artist dies at 20-30) and that's all. Tell me one reason this shouldn't be the case. By then, the studios will have taken a profit (or been a commercial failure but that's not on us) and so will have the artist.

After the artist dies, there's no reason to "support the artist" anymore and while there is the effect of post-mortem sales spike, a celebration of now freely available music for all to enjoy would be a much better hommage.

As for the family, there really isn't any reason they should obtain that copyright. If they wanna earn money with art, they have to create art on their own. What the current laws create in most cases are lazy rich children who spend the rest of their lives managing the copyright legacy of their parent. That doesn't benefit society in any way. Either they work like normal people or they make their own art but they're not entitled to the copyright of their parents. If the parents don't want to leave them in poverty, they can still leave the money they earned with this copyright over the years for their children.

Also, with the minimum 50 years duration, they could still inherit the copyright if their parent dies at an early age. However, a term of life PLUS a ludicrous amount of years is a really bad idea for the cultural development of our society.

The best example about this I know is Moulinsart, which holds the rights of Tintin. Moulinsart is managed by Nick Rodwell, the husband of Hergé's former wife.

He takes a very strict stance on copyright law, and does not give a shit about parody, art or even hommages. Moulinsart will take every opportunity to strike down your Tintin webpage, even DMCA takedowns even though you're French and Moulinsart is Belgian (see what happened to [0], an explanation is available in French in [1]). Rodwell also wanted to publish a new Tintin episode, just to prevent the license to fall into public domain.

The guy has all powers on Tintin, because he married the author's widow. And that's it.

[0]: https://lepetitvingtetunieme.tumblr.com/

[1]: https://www.lesinrocks.com/2014/03/26/actualite/tintin-la-ma...

The laws differ per country, which makes this super complicated. One of the complexities is that you cannot actually opt out of copyright in many countries and semi private institutions exist that by default will start demanding fees for other people's works based on vague notion of them being the designated organization to do so. The legalities around this are super complicated but it boils down to private institutions having the right to charge fees for copyrighted work by default.

In Germany, this organization is called Gema and they send takedown notices and demand to be payed for work to which they do not own the copyright which they then distribute among their members. This happens even when this goes against the will of the legal copyright holder and you get absolutely nothing unless you are member. Becoming a member is very long process and is not free. So you have to pay to eventually get the right to get payed. It is effectively the bigger Gema members that grab most of the cash that it collects.

Effectively organizations like Gema are legalized extortion schemes. They get to play judge, prosecutor, and police. Real judges routinely and blindly rule in their favor. Lawmakers are lobbied into submission, etc. Wikipedia has a nice overview of how artists are getting ripped off, misc fraudulent schemes involving Gema, and how money rolls to their exclusive members rather than the artists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEMA_(German_organization).

What happened in this case is that the recordings are in the Gema database which parties like Youtube are required to use to check for potential violations. Of course Gema has no interest whatsoever to prune this database of stuff that shouldn't be there (like public domain stuff) and good luck convincing them to remove stuff from that db. More entries basically means more money for them and the burden is on the payer to prove otherwise. Their strategy is to make this as hard and tedious as possible so they can maximize their profits.

The same is true in Estonia. Legally any artist can form an organization that is entitled to collect royalties for other artist's work. In practice there is only one such organization (Eesti Autorite Ühing) because nobody bothers to set up their own shop.. and if you're an artist and NOT a member of EAÜ they'll still happily collect money for your work and distribute it amongst their own members and own salaries/real estate etc.

It's absurd.

I agree with the gist of this, but I'm actually leaning towards a shorter copyright lifespan. Maybe 20? The reason being that I feel this better balances the need to benefit from your work (20 years is quite a while to be exclusively entitled to something) with the need for society to build on your work without threat of litigation. I feel 50 years benefits the former a bit too much at the expense of the latter. Just look at what a huge divide there was (in some ways) between life in 1950 and life in 2000. Less so between 1980 and 2000, or 1990 to 2010.

I absolutely agree with this. There is a human right to be a storyteller, to reimagine characters and themes, to expand settings and genres. To sit around the campfire and make new stories of King Arthur and Lancelot, new stories about Sherlock and Watson, new stories about Harry and Hermione.

Copyright is supposed to be a balance between the author and society. In exchange for releasing the full body of the work, the author gets paid in the form of a limited monopoly. Somehow, this became an argument about moral rights rather than repayment, and that the author has the right to prevent anybody from using certain characters, in perpetuity.

20 years is a perfectly reasonable time for copyright to last. On the side of the author, most profit comes within the first 5 years. On the side of society, 20 years means that the stories a child grew up with can then be built upon when they are adults.

> There is a human right to be a storyteller, to reimagine characters and themes, to expand settings and genres. To sit around the campfire and make new stories of King Arthur and Lancelot, new stories about Sherlock and Watson, new stories about Harry and Hermione.

Although I disagree that this should be considered a human right, isn't this generally covered by fair use in the US anyways?

No, from my understand of current US copyright law (not a lawyer), this would be considered either a performance or a derivative work, depending on whether it is exactly reproduced. Neither of those are under fair use.

I thought there was nothing stopping you from creating derivatives of copyrighted works as long as you don't try to exploit them commercially.

Of course, there are plenty of companies that take down stuff that is not being done for profit. Good examples include Nintendo taking down the tools used to create Pokemon games, or Paramount killing the Star Trek fan shows (because they were better and more popular than anything Paramount could do).

The problem is that there's the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, and how rich and powerful entities can get the courts to interpret the law, and its possible, even common, for all three of those to be different things.

> I thought there was nothing stopping you from creating derivatives of copyrighted works as long as you don't try to exploit them commercially.

Nope, creating derivative works is something that is explicitly part of copyright, whether or not it is for commercial gain. Fanfiction or fan recreations are only legal with the consent of the author. Typically, authors will turn a blind eye to it, since it increases the longevity of the original works. It is only a civil matter, and so only the copyright holder could bring a suit against fanfiction authors.

What about business. Any business writing is copyright protected too. I've been on business for eight years, and it would be very weird it the stuff I wrote and still use on my site expires in 12 years. It potentially will still be just as valid in that time.

I know the tech world changes fast but there are some niches where something written or recorded in 1998 is still valid today.

That's the point of copyright, so that the public eventually benefits from giving you protection for the term of the copyright. It's suppose to still be valid.

It seems a bit short for investment horizons was my point. And also, you’re perhaps thinking of patents, where the public eventually benefits from using an invention - lack of patent would mean more inventions are kept secret.

Copyright is meant to be an incentive for the creation of works that otherwise would not be made. The public benefits by the fact that they’re created. They eventually get to use them too, but it’s less crucial than it is for patents.

> Copyright is meant to be an incentive for the creation of works that otherwise would not be made.

Copyright was there as an incentive for the release of works that would otherwise be kept hidden. As an example, playwrights were very secretive about the plays that they had written. Actors would only be given copies of their own lines, not the lines spoken by anyone else. Full copies of the script were never distributed. As a result, there are a great many works that are simply lost (for example, Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won by Shakespeare). It is this loss of works that copyright is intended to prevent.

With current copyright law, books are being lost by virtue of copyright being too long and covering too much. Books from before copyright became perpetual and recent books are easily available, but very little from in between [1]. If the holders of the copyright do not continue to release a work, it becomes entirely unavailable.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/the-m...

Do you have any source for your claims? The first copyright act in the modern sense was the Statute of Anne in the UK in 1710. The purpose was “for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books”. I included the full preamble below.

As for America, the reasoning on the continental congress on copyright was:

“that nothing is more properly a man's own than the fruit of his study, and that the protection and security of literary property would greatly tend to encourage genius and to promote useful discoveries.”

Again, nothing about releasing works to the public, and everything about promoting more publishing.


“Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted ...”

I got the continental congress quote from the history of copyright article on wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_copyright_law

Hmm, I'm having difficulty finding it. I remember hearing that copyright was largely for preservation in a class, but that would have been over a decade ago. Thank you for pointing out that that portion is unsupported. Until and unless I can find a source for it, I will avoid repeating it.

It's not a point of whether or not it's supposed to be valid, but whether or not the creator can maintain _exclusive_ ownership of the copyrighted material.

If someone wrote a math book 100 years ago, that math book will still be correct today, even if it's in the public domain.

Disney started with the works of the Brothers Grimm, available after 24 years, I think.

Pulled that ladder right up behind them.

I can't see any reason to deny an author copyright during his or her lifetime. They wrote it. The public has no intrinsic right to take their stuff.

In point of fact, some kinds of work depend on the longer payback period. Children's books, for example, don't usually earn so much initially, but successful ones can be dependable earners for a long time.

If we want to argue about intrinsic rights, though, you could also argue that there is no intrinsic right for an author of an intellectual work to have any ownership over it whatsoever once they share that idea with another person.

The fact that they have legal ownership of a work is a societal construct, enforced by government, to incentivise the creations of said works for the sake of the public good.

The notion of intellectual property, of ideas "belonging" to the first person who had them publicly, are a fairly recent invention in human history; and the notion of practically eternal copyrights held by immortal entities spanning multiple human lifetimes is an extremely recent invention.

As much as the capital-L Librarians like to jump up and down yelling "Property rights! Property rights!", those rights are only exist because there are folks with guns willing to use them to enforce those rights;

So with that in mind, the only thing I think worth arguing is what the terms of that deal should be. I am of the opinion that that the term of a copyright should be as short as possible, while still being long enough to incentivise creation. I think this was the original idea of the 20ish year copyright term. Personally, I think that the sooner a society can claim a work, and continue building off of it, the better.

> capital-L Librarians

I didn't know they had a stake in this.

> I can't see any reason to deny an author copyright during his or her lifetime. They wrote it. The public has no intrinsic right to take their stuff.

So long as an author does not share their work with anyone, they can have complete control over it for as long as they want. As soon as they they share it with somebody, enforcing copyright means that somebody is being restricted from the natural human instinct of retelling a story. Copyright is not property to be had by the author. Copyright is a restriction on everybody else, granted in exchange for releasing the work in the first place.

Copyright is a balance between rewarding the author, minimal restrictions on society, and progress of the arts. Unlimited copyright fails the latter two goals entirely.

> Copyright should only have a term of life (with a minimum duration of 50 years in case the artist dies at 20-30) and that's all.

Boy you are generous, if it was up to me copyrights would have a life of 10 years, no extensions/renewals. Ten years ought to be enough to squeeze a healthy chuck of profits out of your material. If after 10 years you can't/haven't come up with anything new, then you better find a new job.

Agreed -- in addition, a shorter term like this fixes a major issue with using "life" specifically, which ends up unintentionally creating an incentive to murder the creator.

Wow, never thought about it this way. Its probably a nice plot for a crime novel.

It'd be better to be able to by stock in an artist, and continue to let them live and create, while profiting yourself off those dividends.

I don't understand why HN seems to want everyone to be a wage slave. If I create original work, I want to profit off it for my life. Anything else is just punishing people who are creators rather than property owners.


a) Almost all artists sign deals with publishers to "get their foot in the door" which end up giving all of the rights to the publisher, and so the artist ends up being a "wage slave" because they don't profit off the rights of the work they made.

b) Locking away works for entire generations means that cultural artistic development is stifled. Shakespeare's works were based on previous works and stories, and under the copyright system of today he would have been sued for his plays (and we probably wouldn't have them today). It is insanely short-sighted for corporations to lobby for longer copyright terms to have monopolies, at the expense of eradicating future generations' Shakespeares.

c) The original purpose of copyright (under the Statute of Anne in 1710) was to provide a very limited monopoly by the authors (not publishers) so that they are incentivised to create new works. By your own admission, having lifetime copyright protections does not incentivise the creation of new works (you could argue that it actually is a counter-incentive if you wrote one work that became very popular early in your career). A return to that system would be a significant improvement.

a) not relevant, particularly in 2018 when self-publishing is becoming increasingly common.

b) I specifically said my lifetime. An average work might be covered for two generations. Not a big deal. If Shakespeare's work is so derivative, then I don't have a problem. 50 Shades of Gray started as Twilight fan-fiction. You can be derivative without being a mashup.

c) you're talking about publishers again, as if that's relevant.

As for this:

By your own admission, having lifetime copyright protections does not incentivise the creation of new works

I don't appreciate you putting words in my mouth to form a low-quality argument. At no point did I ever say or imply anything of the sort!

Self-publishing is ridiculously uncommon, and it's just silly to argue that the small amount of large works that succeeded through self-publishing somehow diminishes the immense power and size of large publishing houses (for movies and books -- there is more self-published music these days). I can't even think of a recent example of a popular book or movie that was self-published ('The Martian' was written in public independently but the books were obviously printed by a single publisher).

> I specifically said my lifetime. An average work might be covered for two generations. Not a big deal.

The average lifetime is more like 5-6 generations (each generation being maybe 15 years). I disagree it isn't a big deal, and I also very much disagree that it's fine if Shakespeare didn't exist because his works were derivative.

> 50 Shades of Gray started as Twilight fan-fiction.

The work '50 Shades of Gray' has absolutely nothing in common with 'Twilight', despite it's history. Not to mention that the author probably got permission of some sort. Shakespeare's plays were far more significant mash-ups of previous stories and works (with changes obviously, but nowhere near as many changes as the two works you mentioned).

> At no point did I ever say or imply anything of the sort!

Yes you did. From your original comment:

> If I create original work, I want to profit off it for my life.

If you have a guaranteed profit source for the rest of your life, what reasonable person would ever find a need to make more works (there's no point in getting more money if you already have whatever you need)? The point of copyright is to incentivise the creation of new works -- which is the precise reason why it is limited in every country on Earth (and was even more limited in the Statute of Anne). Having a limit to any reasonable person is equivalent to unlimited (since once your dead, there's no profit motive any more) has the same effect of removing the incentive for more works.

If you don't believe that the purpose of copyright is to incentise new works, read the US constitution (I imagine you're in the US) or whatever copyright law is applicable in your country.

> [Congress has the Right] 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.

> I want to profit off it for my life

Of course you do. Everyone wants free money.

But look at the flip side - you want everyone else to accept an obligation to not do a a number of things with that work, and other people to enforce your rights, which is a claim on other people's time and money.

So even if you believe there's some moral right to prevent others from doing things with some "intellectual property", you're still stuck compromising with all the people you're demanding do or not do certain things.

> Anything else is just punishing people who are creators rather than property owners.

Actually, you're calling a failure to coerce others into to building legal regimes to your preferred specifications a 'punishment'. You might instead ask, why should the fact that I scribbled something down create legal obligations on someone I have never met?

Everyone wants free money.

It's not free money. It's passive income from intellectual property.

So even if you believe there's some moral right to prevent others from doing things with some "intellectual property"

It's a legal right. Morality has nothing to do with it, aside from your own attempt to baselessly undermine opposing arguments.

Actually, you're calling a failure to coerce others into to building legal regimes to your preferred specifications a 'punishment'.

Now you're just getting into "property is theft" and "taxation is violence" level nonsense. By your logic, why shouldn't I be able to just park an RV on your lawn and live there? Property rights are just some legal construct.

> It's a legal right.

We agree that the current laws are like this, but laws change all the time and laws are supposed to reflect society's ethics (in the US this is a joke nowadays -- they reflect the (lack of) ethics of large corporations).

If the current laws are unfair, then having a discussion of how the laws should be (to inform a decision on whether such a reform should be lobbied for and put to into an actual law) is entirely fair. Dismissing such discussions with "that's the way it is" is just silly -- would you have made similar comments to the civil rights movements or other such movements?

We agree that the current laws are like this, but laws change all the time and laws are supposed to reflect society's ethics

In exactly the same way that property rights are enforced. We're barreling into a knowledge-based economy, yet HN wants to devalue knowledge and IP.

It's not the same way that property rights are enforced. This is a common misunderstanding because of the term "intellectual property". In most countries the concepts of copyright, patent, trademark, trade secrets, etc are separate legal concepts with completely different regulations.

Copyright protects against the copying of works -- there is simply no analog of "copying a work" for physical property. You cannot "copy" a chair, or "copy" a table. You can make a new one from scratch based on the design of the old one, and assuming it has no patents, this would be completely legal.

Copyright also can place restrictions on redistribution of works, as well as modification (or even use) of works. This is something that is has no physical property laws associated with it -- the previous owner of a house cannot place restrictions on who you can sell your house to (or whether you can drill holes in the wall or where you can place your furniture). A publisher cannot restrict your ability to sell a book you bought to someone else second-hand.

The same argument can be drawn out for all of the other completely separate legal concepts.

Not to mention that "intellectual property" doesn't mirror the core concept of property -- it is based on scarcity. The reason why ownership of a house is important is because there is only one such house, and there must be a way to figure out who has the right to make executive decisions about that house. This is not how "intellectual property" operates. There simply is no scarcity, as ideas can be spread and copied without cost.

I'm guessing you don't contribute to open source software then.

I don't. I would if I were at least paid to, but I focus on writing software for myself to generate income instead of generating some multiple of my salary for an employer.

There was an article on HN about an open source developer who is the sole maintainer of some complex, common tool (I can't recall what) who barely scrapes along. He's created many millions of dollars in value for others yet he can barely keep food on the table.

IMO, open source is great for consumers and middle-men, but takes advantage of and devalues software creators.

Lazy rich child A's dad built a house, which he and his children can benefit from for marginal costs (maintenance, taxes).

Lazy rich child B's dad wrote some music, which he and his children can benefit from for marginal costs (publishing, taxes).

I know - in one case it is a physical object, and in the other - immaterial. But both houses and music can offer enjoyment and can be benefited from financially, and thus have inherent value.

I am not sure if the notion of private property should depend on the continued existence of the original creator. When do we start requisitioning houses for the hommage of the original owner?

> in one case it is a physical object, and in the other - immaterial.

In one case or you live in the house or I live in the house. In the other, you can listen to music and other million people or 1 billion at the same time.

Physical ownership is required because it is a limit resource. Copyright is not limited by any physic constraint.

So, I agree that ownership has nothing to do with the original creator. But copyright has nothing to do with a house ownership but a legal monopoly created by the state with some goals in mind that may require or probably not to extend it beyond a few years.

The house is recouped by society though inheritance and property tax. You keep the physical object, but it has to be continuously paid for by generations to remain private.

If keeping things copyrighted had a continuous cost then copyright holders would be incentivized to release things to public sooner.

1. Immaterial rights are not material rights

2. Private property is a false analogy

3. Copyright was established for two reasons: a) to let the author (and only the author) to profit from their immaterial work. b) to facilitate the free exchange of ideas

That is kind of the point - why is the dad who wields a pencil going to have to leave his children in a worse position than a dad who wielded a hammer.

The dad who wields a pencil is paid for his art, and he can use that money to buy a house.

Let's say "a dad who wielded a hammer" is a dad who builds and sells furniture.

Are his children entitled to every piece of furniture this "dad who wielded a hammer" ever built? As it was already mentioned "The dad who wields a pencil" can just as easily buy a house and leave it to his children.

The problem with immaterial things is that they can be trivially copied. In this sense copyright law is more akin to patents: you get protection and possiblity to profit off of your immaterial work.

Nothing stopping from renting out the house in your lifetime, only to leave it for your children once you cease to be.

In my country, inheritance of more than 2 million € is taxed ~50% (20% tax for 500 000 - 1M€).

Copyright inheritance is not taxed in any way.

>>Copyright inheritance is not taxed in any way.

Michael Jackson's estate begs to differ: IRS argues that the pop star’s name and likeness should have been valued at $161 million; that would be down from 2013, when it valued those rights at $434 million. https://www.wsj.com/articles/michaels-jacksons-estate-faces-...

Well, as I said, in my country it's not the case.

Copyright and all forms of intellectual property absolutely are subject to estate and inheritance tax, in the US. As one random google result says [1].


Your analogy makes more sense (to me) if Lazy rich child B was left original recordings of their father's music. This, like a house, would be something material that they could sell one time. Conversely, if child A was left the rights to blueprints for how to build said house. That would be something immaterial that they could license or sell the rights to.

People don't usually make a living by building houses for themselves and their family.

Lazy child C's dad worked at a factory making drills as a salaried employee. After he retired/died, the lazy child had to get over their laziness to make a living.

Why doesn't the factory have to keep paying the dad's wage to his family for decades after he died?

This comparison is intellectually lazy or maybe even dishonest.

One difference between a house and a recording is marginal cost of replication/reproduction: not zero in case of a house, effectively zero in case of a recording.

Without a government granted monopoly on copies, the marginal financial value of a copy is close to zero in all but the most exotic cases.

With a government granted monopoly comes a real cost: enforcement, and loss of social value. How does one justify that?

Authors' descendants do not have a $DEITY granted eternal right to exploit the author's work, and rightly so. This is why "intellectual property" can be more accurately described as "intellectual rights".

On the other hand, the society does not have a $DEITY granted right to benefit from the creations of an author, material or immaterial.

The fact that in one case the creation is easily reproducible with almost zero marginal costs, speaks not of the inherent value of the original creation (that was presumably undisputed at the author's lifetime), but is mere opportunistic thinking from the perspective of the society.

How would you vote against that if you were on your deathbed? You can burn your house, but you cannot undo music or literature.

I come from a former Russian occupied country that has maybe left me a bit overprotective of private property. The notion of requisitioning property "for the good of The People" is deeply repulsive - a lot of families here, including mine, actually were liberated from their house, farm, land and personal freedoms by the "liberators". So maybe after some decades, I should leave more room for "The People".

The main point against that stance is that no creation happens in a vacuum. Every cultural product is a collective creation to a certain extent. Reduction of copyright terms is simply giving back to the society's pool of creations that is the public domain.

This doesnt create many opportunities for abuse like a monopoly of the state on the creations. Public domain is, by virtue of being freely reproducible, free.

What we are saying is, that you get to keep the original creation.

There is nothing stopping the children of the musician from continuing to listen to that music.

But nothing also stops other people from listening to it either if they lose exclusive rights to it.

Nobody is liberated from anything, as they still can listen to that music as much as they want.

Copying something is not theft. The original remains intact.

Freely sharing copies after a reasonably short state protected monopoly has expired does not equal stealing.

P.S. I do feel for the difficult bit of history in your native country's past. Lots of friends and family from a small republic "liberated" 3 times the last 80 years, consecutively by the USSR, Nazi Germany, and again the USSR...

> Copyright should only have a term of life (with a minimum duration of 50 years in case the artist dies at 20-30) and that's all.

There are, to me, two broad classes of copyright. One is for the "works of art", that is for things that people can enjoy (e.g., music). I suspect whatever choice we make the society would not be affected too much. I think your lifetime / 50 years is a bit too generous, but whatever.

IMO way more important is finding the right balance for the technology / know how. That is something that people want to replicate to learn, produce or improve things. The original idea of copyright makes sense, but with modern communication and prototyping speed, 5 years of exclusive use is the max we should give.

I think the society should focus on the technology part first; sadly, most of the discussion is about the royalties to noise generators :).

I don't think that the distinction between art and technology stands up to scrutiny. Both are iterative creative processes, and we want to empower future generations of both artists and technologists to build their ideas in a way that advances the current stack. Allowing art to be balkanized with excessive copyright hurts cultural development. And we depend on culture to shape everything, including our current environment that fosters technical innovation.

I am not arguing for balkanizing art. I think it might deserve more generous copyright terms because it can take longer to get appreciated and generate revenue for the author. But I do not feel strongly about it either way.

I believe that copyright only refers to creative works. Technology would be covered by patents. See also trademarks as the third kind of intellectual property.

How about works for hire? When should the copyright on The Lion King expire when people of all ages had worked on it?

Presumably, based on the GP's proposal, 50 years after its creation.

50 years.

> Copyright should only have a term of life (with a minimum duration of 50 years in case the artist dies at 20-30) and that's all. Tell me one reason this shouldn't be the case.

I'll give you three:

1) Even if it's unlikely for anyone to act on it (which I don't think can be taken for granted), it's perverse to have a law making it possible to terminate a copyright by murdering the author.

2) The term is too long. At 50 years since first publication, the vast majority of works have been out of print for 40+ years. Roughly half of people who experienced the contemporary zeitgeist are dead, and by this time surviving copies of the work might be difficult to find or in long-obsolete formats that are difficult to work with.

3) For works older than 50 years, it requires would-be public domain users to find out whether the author is still alive. This wouldn't be difficult for a famous author, but many authors don't enjoy such fame later in life, particularly if their creative careers are short.

I'd support making it a 20-year fixed term with no renewals, although I think it can still be argued that that's too long.

>>As for the family, there really isn't any reason they should obtain that copyright. If they wanna earn money with art, they have to create art on their own.

OK, should you benefit from your father's or grandfather's talent in, say, business? Let's treat them equally.

A longer exclusivity term makes it possible to recoup more investment costs, for those who invest in artists. This theoretically enables larger investments that can support the artist further up front.

> A longer exclusivity term makes it possible to recoup more investment costs

I go to the bank. I ask for a loan. I tell them that I will small marginal profits after 75 years. I do not get the loan.

Even if in some cases this was actually possible. Still, we need to evaluate if it is worth it. All the stories, movies, characters that are part of your formation and your culture will be privately owned and restricted until way after you are dead.

Characters, music, and other cultural assets only become free when nobody cares anymore about them.

We are evaluating the possibility of the creation of some cultural assets against the reality of other cultural assets that are not created because the government sets monopolistic restrictions on them.

There is a sweet spot where creators can live out of their creations. And were citizens can make their own vision of characters that personally meant a lot to them.

What if record companies finance artists in ways that banks wouldn’t?

The main argument I can accept for copy right is that it allows for people to pool their tiny amount of money to vote for the kind of music they like so it is more democratic than a patron-focused model where authors and musicians would need to cater to a few patrons' tastes.

However, even though most of the money remains concentrated at the top, we no longer have this problem. It is fairly easy to support your favorite artist with a few dollars every month and indeed there was a big discussion here when Patreon said they could no longer support adult entertainers. None of them makes a big payout but historically not many do anyways.

I'd argue nobody deserves the huge payout that artists get. What we need is a sustainable way to fund a universal basic income so those who want to pursue the arts can do so without a fear of starving.

I'd even argue that we can afford to take copyright down to five or ten years and eventually eliminate it. Imagine the innovation at Spotify if there were no copyright! Copyright holds business down.

> Imagine the innovation at Spotify if there were no copyright!

None, because Spotify would go out of business overnight as people stole their source code.

The value of Spotify isn't in the source code just like the value of Google cloud or AWS isn't. Someone still needs to offer it as a service.

Why? Icecast is open source and it does the same thing.

Spotify's value is not running many Icecast servers.

if we're talking about the music industry, sure, more investment enables the machine to make bigger stars and more money. but if we're talking about music as a cultural good, how much money is really needed to make a top notch studio album? no more than a million dollars in most cases. maybe you need to multiply that by a small integer to make a really good music video for a couple of the singles.

is the purpose of copyright law to enable billion dollar stars, or million dollar albums?

This would be a good point, if either a) if were backed up by data or b) data weren't available yet.

I wish people would stop posting these "could be" arguments when real data is already available and either supports an "is" or doesn't.

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