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The Pirate Party on Copyright Reform (2010) (christianengstrom.wordpress.com)
81 points by allenleein 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments



> But today’s protection times — life plus 70 years — are absurd. No investor would even look at a business case where the time to pay-back was that long.

This is something that should resonate with the HN crowd. The heart of the problem is that the law treats big media and the independent artist the same way. Instead of the flat 5 year copyright term for every piece of work, I think a system that works better is that after 5 years, the copyright on an item can be annually extended by an year using a small fee - say the original sale cost x 10.

The independent artist can renew the few items he has created easily at this small price. But Big Media houses, who own the copyright of tens of thousands of items will have to release any items that no longer sell and do not directly compete with their current offerings.


And this point isn't even up for debate. Present value calculations essentially prove that a copyright long-tail provides minimal benefit to a corporation. Especially since long-tail sales are incredibly rare. So it a 1/200,000 shot at making a classic that will actually sell 100 years from now. And even for that one shot, the discount rate says a million dollars of sales 100 years from now is worth a couple thousand dollars now. There is no way 100-year copyright incentives art now.

Every 5 years is annoying short though. I'd say 20 years automatically, with 5 year extensions up to 40 years.

I'd probably also allow copyright-lite protection after 40 years. You would lose protection against direct copying and sales of your work. But you'd keep protections against derivations. This would allow an author of a long-running book series to keep his rights to his characters and "universe" for future works. I'm not sure how long I'd let those copyright-lite rights run for, but at least 70 years. Maybe with a trademark like a requirement for consistent usage.


20 years is absurdly long. I question whether 5 years of exclusivity is even reasonable, but at least it's a start.

But 20 years is at least better that what we have now, so on the basis of that: it would be great if we could get there. On the other hand, society really should be looking at non-exclusive ways to incentivize creation. Maybe a real copyright could be part of the mix too, but the current model rewards trying to own shared history that is largely valuable because it is shared and previously experienced, and not for the artistic contribution itself.

I think a system with a much shorter exlusivity periode - more like 1 year - and then a longer period of e.g. mandatory fixed-price licensing (pick a price per human end user, but you cannot say no to remixes or alter the price for anyone); or citation-based subsidy, or mandatory auctioning (e.g. the copyright owner sets a price, pays X% of that price as a tax, but must sell to the highest bidder over that price, potentially annually at increasing scale?)

Frankly, though the details aren't unimportant, perhaps more urgent is the realization that the current system is completely broken; it's not rewarding actually valuable efforts; and it is rewarding actively harmful rent-seeking.

Don't forget that the aim is to help society, not to reward artists. I get that 20 years would be nice for artists, but I doubt that "just" 5 would be too little to incentivize creation - let's be honest, humans have been creative since well before the dawn of copyright. Again, we should be looking at incentives with less harmful downsides. It's not just too long; it's incentivizing the wrong stuff; i.e. it's simply not working for news, and probably rewards low-quality spam too much too, and it makes stuff like archiving for histories sake tricky.

20 years plus extensions is waaayy too much; but perhaps it's OK as a stepping stone. Not that any of this is realistic as long as politics is entirely bought and paid for by a small set of vested interests.


This line of thinking can be expanded beyond copyright.

Exclusive access to capital assets are almost by definition rent-seeking. While there is absolutely arguments to be had for the efficiency and effectiveness of such arrangement I think we could do better in capturing the extra rent from those we grant exclusivity.

To that end all monopoly grants, such as copyright, but others too, should be tied to a cost. F.ex. one could perhaps find a proxy for the rent value of a particular grant by means of annual auctions. Such a scheme wouldn’t capture the cost of losing a resource as a commons though.

See Henry George and geo-libertarianism for more thinking in this direction. But I think there’s some need for innovation to address “commons based peer-production” as Yochai Benkler terms it in The Wealth of Networks).


You may be right; but that's such a general perspective that there's a good chance it's wrong in some situations.

I think it's a little tricky to overgeneralize like that - although rent-seeking is pretty much by definition harmful; but whether something merely has a high investment cost and a long payback time, or is rentseeking depends on the details. The details for copyright suggest it's rent-seeking, not necessary investment at the current length and with the current exclusivity rules; but not every incentive to produce need result in rent-seeking.

The danger with generalizing is that you've made the problem harder to solve, and have more risk of unintended consequences if you do manage to solve the general problem.


> On the other hand, society really should be looking at non-exclusive ways to incentivize creation. Maybe a real copyright could be part of the mix too, but the current model rewards trying to own shared history that is largely valuable because it is shared and previously experienced, and not for the artistic contribution itself.

Woah, hang on there buddy. Without the artistic contribution you wouldn’t have the shared experience or history.

So which is more valuable? The chicken or the egg? (Hint: it’s the egg).

> I think a system with a much shorter exlusivity periode - more like 1 year - and then a longer period of e.g. mandatory fixed-price licensing (pick a price per human end user, but you cannot say no to remixes or alter the price for anyone); or citation-based subsidy, or mandatory auctioning (e.g. the copyright owner sets a price, pays X% of that price as a tax, but must sell to the highest bidder over that price, potentially annually at increasing scale?)

Music is not the same as online adverts, so I’m not entirely sure why you think a similar model should be applied.

Also, who defines what constitutes as a “remix”? Does me changing one second of audio count as a remix? I’ve altered the work, I’ve changed it. But it’s 99% the same. Is that a remix or copyright infringement?

Also, this type of model assumes EVERYTHING can be measured online. What about vinyl record sales? Cassette sales? How do you get every shop across the entire world to adhere to your model for physical products.

Also, what about live gigs? How do you license for x number of end listeners if you can’t count how many end listeners there are? And before you mention ticket sales, what about cover bands that play in pubs and bars where there are no ticket sales?

> Don't forget that the aim is to help society, not to reward artists.

Errrrrrr. What? No. Copyright law is designed to protect the rightsholders first of all.

If I don’t want someone remixing my track, why should society get a say above what I think? It’s my work. Why do they get to choose?

> I get that 20 years would be nice for artists, but I doubt that "just" 5 would be too little to incentivize creation - let's be honest, humans have been creative since well before the dawn of copyright. Again, we should be looking at incentives with less harmful downsides. It's not just too long; it's incentivizing the wrong stuff;

I’ve been making music for 10 years. In that time I’ve worked jobs to pay the bills and buy music gear. I’ve spent much of my free time on making music.

I’ve invested my money and my time over the last 10 years. If I were to “make it big” tomorrow, do you think I’d be happy about half of my investment being thrown to the wolves?

Music (and art generally) is not a linear earning process. The majority of people don’t suddenly become big overnight. There’s years (sometimes decades in the case of Gigi Masin) of toil and hardship until you finally get to the point where you actually make some money.


> I’ve been making music for 10 years.

Then I wonder what you think of Kirby Ferguson's video series, Everything Is a Remix (https://vimeo.com/139094998).


WRT artists and creativity...

It's ridiculously reductive and misses swathes of nuance. Apparently anyone who uses an A minor chord is derivative by that logic. Anyone using an ABCDCAECCF song structure is derivative. Anyone using drums is derivative!

Using its logic, one could argue that your own comment is derivative - it uses the English language, you used the HN comments system rather than making your own, you included a vimeo link like so many other people on HN, you used the block quote symbol instead of coming up with your own.

When I record noise in a coffee shop, I'm using a technique that many other people have used, yes. However, I'm the only one sitting in that exact position, using that exact microphone, with those exact people around me talking about those specific things at that specific moment in time. So the sound I record is not derivative. It's special. It's unique. No-one else has recorded that sound. No-one else accidentally spilled his coffee halfway through the recording and mumbled "ah sh" in my voice.

If you want to be black and white, yes all art is derivative. No-one has ever created anything purely original ever. In the whole world and the entirety of time. But that misses the point. My personality, wide ranging influences, strange thoughts, ideas and mistakes are in that recording.

Also, good artists copy, great artists steal. Every time I show new tracks to my friends I try to ask who they think the influences were. It's a really fun game because 90% of the time it shows me more about their taste in music than mine.

------

WRT Copyright law.

I can only speak for the UK here, but we are one of the biggest exporters of music in the world. We export more of our music than most other nations. That's not evidence of a system that is stifling creativity. Far from it!

PRS For Music pays out around £700 million to UK rights holders annually. And that's just one part of the music industry!

This stuff about exclusive licenses also isn't really a problem. All those Beastie Boys, Eminem and Will Smith tracks will have cleared the Led Zeppelin sample (mentioned in Part 1), negotiating a share of the royalty with the original rightsholders. I know this because I used to look at these royalty shares every day in PRS systems (used to work there).

Sure, if you want to use a sample from a popular song in your work, you have to do a bit of extra work and maybe sacrifice a bit of cash. Hell, maybe you can't actually clear it and need to replace that sample.

But you're trying to use someone else's work directly, and without modification, so they should be fairly paid for that. You could have created your own element to fit in that space, but you didn't.

Sampling actually has an interesting loophole BTW. If the sample is modified beyond recognition, it is considered a new work and doesn't need to be cleared/attributed.

Finally, just for the sake of clarity, the stuff he was talking about wrt Led Zeppelin stealing from other artists actually sits in the area known as Arrangements. These are a whole weird grey area, which is why people go through through lengthy court battles.


> Woah, hang on there buddy. Without the artistic contribution you wouldn’t have the shared experience or history.

That's just nonsense. Sure you would still have shared experience and history: not all experiences are manufactured, and not all manufactured experiences are owned, and not all art is made for profit.

Even without any copyright at all and without any incentive to produce art at all, people would still produce art, because it's fun, and perhaps for other reasons. By number, most musicians are hobbyists and never get paid a dime; lots of people make and play music just as social thing and as part of growing up. The idea that music needs to be a job, and beyond that a job beyond the actual performing art itself is clearly incorrect: evidence: every single human culture in history, which have all made art and music, well before copyright was ever a thing. Even today, despite the huge hurdle that copyright poses, communites create pretty impressive stuff even though their members never even consider the fact that some of their contributions are potentially copyrightable, and the fact that it's hopeless to figure out who owns what in a process like that.

If you think that the only shared experiences worth having are those intentionally created by people being paid, you have a really, really distorted view of humanity. Have you never just had fun with a bunch of friends or family, and created something in the process? Seriously??

> > Don't forget that the aim is to help society, not to reward artists.

> Errrrrrr. What? No. Copyright law is designed to protect the rightsholders first of all.

Well, this depends at least slightly on where you're from. In the US, the constitution explicitly states that congress may enact a limited duration of exclusivity for the purpose not of protecting rightsholders, but to promote "science and useful arts". It would likely be unconstitutional for congress to limit transmission of ideas without constitutional amendment for the purpose of protection of rightsholders, but IANAL. In any case this wasn't articulated as clearly in earlier texts in e.g. england, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that it likely played a part there too; if the aim were merely to keep the destitute off the streets, why single out authors like that? Because creation is valuable. Protecting rightsholders is a means to an end; not the actual aim of copyright. You might even say it's a cost, not a benefit: you're taking people's rights away, and there better be a good reason for that.

> Also, this type of model assumes EVERYTHING can be measured online.

I intentionally mentioned a bunch of different models, some of which do not assume that, e.g. the annual auction system. I'm positive thee are dozens of other (better) systems too, I just thought of those on a whim: the point isn't to promote any specific alternative but to emphasize that there are alternatives and they're not even hard to think of. But even the citation system does not require everything to be online, simply to be accounted for. You buy the vinyl you're worried about today, in most places you pay sales tax and thus in some sense formalize the sale. Formalizing the usage is conceivable. Would that be perfect? No. But copyright only "works" when nothing can be copied without permission, yet, that's quite possible nowaways. The feasibility of copyright is almost certainly one of the worst of all of these approaches, particularly because copyright introduces the dichotomy of consumer and producer, and puts them in opposition. And that makes it attractive to cheat. Also, we do live in a world with ever more pervasive automation. It would be inefficient not to leverage that where it's useful to do so.

As to your question on what's a remix: either define it, or consider all usages to be derived works needing a mandatory license. That's only a problem with copyright because copyrightholders have users over a barrel; with mandatory licensing and fixed prices a remixer would know what they're getting into beforehand (and might choose to use older, cheaper samples, or use less of the sample or whatever). But what's not going to happen is that it turns into the quagmire is is now, because there's no exclusivity. It's even conceivable you could use the notion of entropy modern signal prcessing in dealing with what's a remix; that mathematical tool simply didn't exist back then! (Again, the options are legion, which is the point...)


1a) My point was that without the creation (i.e. the artistic contribution, people getting together and jamming, me in my studio etc.) then the shared experiences wouldn't exist because nothing would have been created to be shared.

That was where it seemed your original comment was heading towards. That the creation didn't matter. I think we agree here but we seem to have missed each other's points.

1b) Hold on, are you arguing that copyright shouldn't exist because music/art has always existed in some form or another and therefore it doesn't deserve to be protected?

1c) Actually, copyright helps to boost creativity in some cases. See point (2b).

2a) UK copyright law actually started as a way of enforcing censorship. Mind you, this was hundreds of years ago under the Statute of Anne. These days, however, its job is to protect the rights and welfare of creators. Because our society places an inherent value on the work musicians do - whether they be pro or hobbyist.

2b) Copyright means that someone can't just go onto soundcloud, copy one of my tracks and call it their own. And a damn great thing that is. They'd be ripping off my work. Why would I bother creating anymore music to share with people if all that will happen is that is gets ripped off every time?

Yeah, I put the music out there for people to enjoy, but if someone else is going out and claim it as theirs and get some big concerts off the back of it, why would I bother? Humans are not altruistic beings. We are inherently selfish. Laws help keep us in line. That's the point of laws!

So, in that way, copyright actually helps boost creativity, whilst balancing the rights of the consumers and the rights holders.

3) You've taken the existing models used by collection societies and wrapped them up as if they've new. Also, its not clear if you're talking about just trying to use samples, or copyright as a whole. I'm going with the latter, as you mention remixes towards the end of your post, but if it's the former feel free to call me out and i can come back with other stuff then.

Let's go through these ideas in order... Using Average Joe, the dope smoking guitarist from The Average Band, as an example musician.

3a) mandatory fixed-price licensing (pick a price per human end user, but you cannot say no to remixes or alter the price for anyone);

PRS requires people who use music to have a license. The BBC pays a license fee. Pubs pay a license fee. Radio stations pay a license fee.

The price per end-user fluctuates because the number of end-listeners fluctuates over the course of a year. Also, the majority of revenue domains (Live especially) can't estimate how many end-listeners were actually listening to each piece of music. This is why blanket deals happen. The data just doesn't exist.

And before you start thinking "YouTube must surely be able to provide that data", their data was some of the most useless stuff we had to deal with back on the 2014 license. Seriously, it was atrocious.

All your solution does is put the onus of understanding the licenses on the rights holders, like Average Joe. Average Joe sometimes forgets what an A Minor chord is, let alone the choices between legal frameworks.

3b) citation-based subsidy

PRS receives usage data from licensees and then pays out to rights holders based on that usage. So nothing new here.

3c) mandatory auctioning (e.g. the copyright owner sets a price, pays X% of that price as a tax, but must sell to the highest bidder over that price, potentially annually at increasing scale?)

So only one entity ever can have access to The Average Band's brilliant new album: The Average Album?

3d) I'm positive thee are dozens of other (better) systems too, I just thought of those on a whim

If you've thought of these on a whim then I can almost guarantee that they will not work. In all my time at PRS, the "blue sky thinking" ideas were always the ones that resulted in members and/or Joe public getting angry at us over the phone.

There is not one single specific model that works best. There are different models because they fit the purposes for which the music is used best. The system is complicated and there is not a one-size-fits all solution...

The model that exists now actually pays rights holders pretty fairly, and is tried and tested over a number of years.

4) So the opportunities for "Remixes" are a bit of an issue in copyright at the minute, yes. WIPO put out a report mentioning the issue in 2015 and the potential need for reform. But you seem to be basing your position the idea that all rights holders will deny the use of a sample. Which just isn't true. 90% of the time they just want to be remunerated for the sample's use. Then of course comes the degree of the renumeration, which requires some negotiation. But I manage to make music and use samples perfectly legally. Why can't others?

5) How do you think Joe Average is going to fare when he has to learn about Boltzmann constants just to work out whether he can use a sample or not?

6) I noticed you didn't respond to my point about losing out on all my investment over the last 10 years. Any particular reason?


You have lots of points; I don't have the time to respond to each and every one (that's also the reply to your point 6 ;-) )

Overall: the point I'm trying to get across is that copyright must serve society and consumers first, and not rightsholders. If you want to think of it in terms of a transaction: the creator is being hired to provide a service, and that's the extent of the remuneration that should be provided, not more. Secondly, that it's not all or nothing; we could use a shorter copy right (or no copyright, eventually) and encourage creation differently. Finally, there's no question that I'm not going to come up with something as fully fleshed out as hundreds of years of legal precedent; nor even that if people in general did attempt such change with better and more fleshed out ideas that we wouldn't lose anything. But retaining every last specific positive aspect of copyright is an unnecessary bar; the replacement merely needs to have a better net benefit than indefinite copyright (which is the practical norm today). So some of the issues you point out are misunderstandings of what I meant; others are things I'm sure are plain bad ideas, but some are valid, yet acceptable. It's OK to have serious flaws, because copyright has really terrible flaws.

1c: boosting creativity in some cases is laudable... if there were no downsides. But there are huge downsides. And I'm not sure the upsides are worth the downsides at all, let alone a more realistic alternative with a pared back (but still present) copyright with some additional incentives.

2a: no. The statue of Anne was more complex than that. Vested interests (publishers) obviously wanted the control, but to sell it to the parliament and the public, which had interests in the matter, they needed to rephrase it to be in the public interest. And perhaps the mechanics of the act weren't ideal, or perhaps some of the drafters were entirely selfish; but the fact remains that it formally was to benefit "learning" in general. One hint of that is the act's title: "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of Copies, during the Times therein mentioned" - we now call it the statute of Anne ;-).

3a: mandatory fixed-price licensing: no exceptions. No data, no licensing; i.e. it's in the seller's interest to ensure that data can be made available, as it is in the buyers. This isn't an attempt to cover all bases (e.g. live); but rather to avoid the market distortions inherent in granting control to the licensing person. Literally applied to remixes that would imply that the end-user must pay the full price for each sample used in the mix - but only once, no matter how many songs it's in. You're right, this may not be practical; or perhaps it's usable for a subsection of the problem (again, the point is to explore ideas, not propose a one-sized fits all solution to everything).

3b) Perfect! we're in agreement. Who cares about new? Again: the aim is to slowly pare back copyright, and, where that would lose some of its benefits, to find alternatives that are also beneficial (even if perhaps in different ways).

4) copyright holders routinely deny the permission for derivatives. How many derivatives of windows did you see back in it's heyday? How many derivatives of mickey mouse? The control is absolute, and that is absolutely too much. Finally, and perhaps the greatest loss: people don't even bother trying to remix because it's just so impractical.

5) You don't need to be a legal scholar to use copyright either, and that is largely because people get used to it, and also because when push comes to shove you can hire somebody else that's an expert. Joe Average in some hypothetical alternative could do the same. You're implicitly assuming some kind of radical, sudden, unannounced change, and yes, in that scenario Joe Average would get confused. But not if Joe Average grew up with the alternative, and has lots of friends and examples, and can hire an expert when really necessary. Finally don't forget that Joe Average at the end of the day simply isn't all that relevant here. It's at worst unfortunate if they can't go on using exactly the same business model as before. They'll be new opportunities, to be sure, and a looong transition period (since clawing back existing copyright terms is likely infeasible). The issue is whether it's good enough for creativity without all the downsides of inflexibility and control that copyright has.


> Overall: the point I'm trying to get across is that copyright must serve society and consumers first, and not rightsholders. If you want to think of it in terms of a transaction: the creator is being hired to provide a service, and that's the extent of the remuneration that should be provided, not more.

So music is just a service economy? This is quite a simplistic viewpoint.

Copyright should serve both interests. Protect the rightsholders and allow people to use the works. Which is what exists right here, right now.

If it serves both those points already, it clearly ain’t that broke.

> Secondly, that it's not all or nothing; we could use a shorter copy right (or no copyright, eventually) and encourage creation differently.

Sure. We could. I’d love to see how big media companies act when there’s no copyright on anything anywhere. Rather than freeing creativity, it would free their bottom lines.

Also remember that most musicians don’t earn linearly from their work. It’s a long tail.

> 1c: boosting creativity in some cases is laudable... if there were no downsides. But there are huge downsides. And I'm not sure the upsides are worth the downsides at all, let alone a more realistic alternative with a pared back (but still present) copyright with some additional incentives.

You’re not sure the upsides are worth it. I am. I live in the upsides. I’ve lived with people living on the upsides. Just because you can’t see value doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You can only see reality as you see it.

And yes, I’m biased. I get how frustrating it must be to have a YouTube video demonetised. But things like YouTube operated outside of copyright law for so long I think it’s fair they get their comeuppance.

> Again: the aim is to slowly pare back copyright

You’ve mentioned your aim 3 times, and it seems to be different each time. So which is it? Provide benefit to society, pare back copyright (maybe not all of it) or remove copyright altogether?

> 4) copyright holders routinely deny the permission for derivatives. How many derivatives of windows did you see back in it's heyday? How many derivatives of mickey mouse? The control is absolute, and that is absolutely too much. Finally, and perhaps the greatest loss: people don't even bother trying to remix because it's just so impractical.

Depends on the copyright holder. And there are thousands of musical remixes being released everyday with the rights holders consent.

There is a balance in copyright. People who don’t want their works used can say no. If they don’t mind, they can negotiate. If they don’t care, they can just not register the work.

That is the balance. Want to remix a Lady Gaga song? Good luck. Want to remix Average Joe? You’ve got a shot.

By no means is it perfect. But I’d rather an imperfect system than be forced to give control out when I don’t want to.

Incidentally, anyone can make a parody of Lady Gaga songs. So there are existing exceptions that do allow for certain things under fair dealing.

> 5) You don't need to be a legal scholar to use copyright either, and that is largely because people get used to it, and also because when push comes to shove you can hire somebody else that's an expert.

I am an anomaly in the musician world. I worked on policy at PRS for music. So the 170 page distribution document was my bible. That’s the only reason I know what I know about copyright.

There are vast swathes of policy I never touched. Never even looked at. There’s that many different scenarios to cater for.

Average Joe is most definitely not a legal scholar. He gets confused about why TV and Radio are paid differently. He sometimes checks his cheque and is pleased when it’s near £100 (phew, one less gig to play this month!).

Average Joe also can’t afford to hire someone to understand this stuff for him. So when push comes to shove, he has to get a job in a print shop.

That’s why the system, as it stands now, works. The big hitters subsidise the little guys, potentially for decades. Then some of the little guys become big hitters and the cycle starts over again.

> You're implicitly assuming some kind of radical, sudden, unannounced change, and yes, in that scenario Joe Average would get confused.

In my experience, Joe Average got confused even if the change was announced way ahead of time. The phones in our membership department were often a difficult job as a lot of musicians fundamentally do not get on well with legal stuff. Thats why they’re musicians, otherwise they’d be lawyers...

> Finally don't forget that Joe Average at the end of the day simply isn't all that relevant here.

Once again, the people who actually create the stuff, which you say benefits society, are not relevant at all?

Seriously man. This is why copyright is designed the way it is today. Because they are relevant. Our legal system places an inherent value on the work they do and deems that their work should be protected.

————

Overall - I’m happy with the current system as a musician. You’re unhappy with the current system as a [insert label here].

I’ve made a choice to accept the system for what it is and to work within the confines of it. It’s much more productive and my head hurts a lot less.

Much like tax law. We all have to pay tax, right? But no one likes paying tax...


Funny. That sounds like you want to shorten copyright, but remove fair use? What about music remixes? Also only 40 years down the road?


Derivative works aren't fair use and aren't really related to fair use. Derivative works are like writing a new Harry Potter book or making a new Batman movie.


> And this point isn't even up for debate. Present value calculations essentially prove that a copyright long-tail provides minimal benefit to a corporation. Especially since long-tail sales are incredibly rare.

Actually, the long tail does benefit corporations.

90% of all money goes to circa 10% of PRS for Music members. Those 10% members being the big labels.

The companies themselves have a long tail, but the losses in the 90% of their long tail are paid for many times over by the successes of the 10%.

The long tails is literally he business model of the music industry. Saying it provides minimal benefit is kind of moot. It’s how showbiz works.

> So it a 1/200,000 shot at making a classic that will actually sell 100 years from now.

Any stats or references to back that up, or have you pulled that number out of a hat?

> And even for that one shot, the discount rate says a million dollars of sales 100 years from now is worth a couple thousand dollars now. There is no way 100-year copyright incentives art now

I have no idea what this discount rate you’re talking about is (I don’t think we don’t have anything like that in the UK), but the long duration of copyright totally incentivises creation of art if you think about it.


>I have no idea what this discount rate you’re talking about is (I don’t think we don’t have anything like that in the UK)

He's talking about the discount rate in the sense of net present value calculations[0].

Roughly, the idea is that if something will give me £100 in a year, I shouldn't be willing to pay £100 for it today. Because I could alternatively get £100 in a year by lending out £95 today at interest, I should only be willing pay £95 for ANY asset (say rights to a song) that will pay me £100 a year from now. The alternative interest rate one can earn in this context is known as the discount rate.

The idea from GP is that with compound interest, the value today of the payments I expect in year 70 are small relative to what I'd expect to make in the first few years because they're penalized by so many more years of potential interest. As a result, shortening copyright protections shouldn't change the value to an investor of funding new art by TOO much.

[0]https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/discountrate.asp


Does the same reasoning also imply that the government should get all physical property 100 years after its creation? If not, what makes that case different?


The ability to create infinite copies for essentially zero cost changes the utility calculus significantly.

If we're talking about physical property like, say, a single-family home, the only question is which family is allowed to live in it.

If the physical world worked like copyrighted creations, we'd be able to give every family on earth a copy of that home to live in, for free. And while that would still have downsides for the heirs of the builder (with infinite supply, they could no longer rent out their own copies of the home for a profit), the total utility gained by humanity would easily justify that step.


In various countries there are inheritance and estate taxes that ensure that part of a dead person's property is acquired by society https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_tax And many people believe that such taxes should be raised.


Perhaps?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarian_Justice

(While I think the right of commons should have a higher institutional standing as a legal entity, I’m not convinced it should be conflated with the government. I would probably like to see constitutional writings limiting what rights a government would have as a custodian of the commons)


The same that makes copyright violation different from theft: you can "take away" information from the owner and still have them keep it.


Leasing land in 30 year increments or so instead of selling it would be pretty smart. Then the government can just not renew leases if it needs land for, say, infrastructure.


If you offer extension for a nominal fee, those with big pockets will always opt to do it. Domain registration fees are supposed to combat squatting, but look at where we are. Any good domain name you can think of is probably owned by a squatter.

And there's a similar situation in the media industry right now. Before Fox got bought out, they were churning out Marvel films in order to keep their license. It didn't matter if the films were any good or made a profit. Sony is in the same boat.

I'm not sure if changing copyright is good or bad, but if we do move to a world with temporary copyright, it needs to expire uniformly for all parties.


So simply price ownership at market value. Of course price control distorts the market, we know this.


A) You’ve made a massive assumption here in regards to the sale price.

Sales prices vary depending on a multitude of factors. There’s no single sales price that exists for one album/track/etc.

iTunes charges differently to Beatport. Beatport charges differently to direct to fan over Bandcamp.

B) Furthermore, you’re assuming independent artists earn in a linear fashion which is just not the case.

I have been toiling away for 10 years making music. I don’t earn enough to pay original sales price x 10 every year to keep my work in copyright. So 50% of my work is now public domain.

Now let’s suppose I “make it big” tomorrow. 50% of my hard graft over the last 10 years was for nothing. Everyone can get my work for free. Maybe my recent album makes me a few bucks. But now I can’t re-copyright those earlier works.

As an independent artist, I’ve just been screwed by your proposed system.

Edit1- C) you’re assuming that everything that any musician does is released as an album. And sold to the public. How would you set the rates for something that only gets broadcast on radio and never sold?

Edit2- D) my point regarding B is actually one of he fantastic things about copyright existing for my lifetime +70 years.

If, at any point during that period I “make it big” then either myself, or my estate, are able to be paid for my hard graft.

—————

Music is inherent to our society, even our humanity. Personally, I think we should place appropriate value on it.

Lifetime +70 places a good value on the work musicians do in my opinion.


I have never thought of B before, so thanks for that. Let me challenge you by with one problem with the whole copyright system. Right now there are many works that were produced decades ago, are still under copyright, but cannot be bought at all because its not economically valuable for the copyright owner to produce a few dozen/hundred copies a year.

Society is worse off because the above is true for possibly millions of works, and while not having access to one individual work is not that concerning, in the bulk it is. A significant part of the cultural heritage of our society has been lost because of the intersection of copyright law and economics.

One reason many people support short copyright periods (5-10 years) is because they want to prevent the loss of cultural heritage. Not to mention most of these copyrighted works at this point are held by Big Media companies and not the actual creators of the work.

Do you see this as a problem? If yes, do you have a proposed solution?


Got any specific examples of these works?

> Let me challenge you by with one problem with the whole copyright system. Right now there are many works that were produced decades ago, are still under copyright, but cannot be bought at all because its not economically valuable for the copyright owner to produce a few dozen/hundred copies a year.

AFAIK in the music world, people are usually pretty happy to license out the rights to do a new vinyl/tape release. Seen it happen plenty of times recently (I've bought a few of them!). Get in touch with rights holder, ask how much they're willing to license it out for if we were to do a run on this, see what they say.

But they can say no if they want to, of course.

Then again, I buy weird stuff. So...

> Society is worse off because the above is true for possibly millions of works, and while not having access to one individual work is not that concerning, in the bulk it is. A significant part of the cultural heritage of our society has been lost because of the intersection of copyright law and economics.

Millions seems like a high number. Especially considering it's so cheap to put things up for sale on digital stores like iTunes.

Yeah, this is an issue. There are so many barely known 80s LPs I'd love a repress of, but such is life really. If it isn't going to make someone somewhere some money then it just won't happen.

> Not to mention most of these copyrighted works at this point are held by Big Media companies and not the actual creators of the work.

This is not usually the case, at least for music.

Creators of a work will negotiate with their publishers for a share on both the Performing and Mechanical Right. Publishers usually get a bigger chunk of the mechanical right, whereas creators get a bigger chunk of the performing right.

The royalty shares on all the Beatles songs are SUPER-COMPLICATED. There's so many different entities. And 90% of them are to do with the estate of the members of the Beatles. Not big media companies.

So I'm not sure what you mean by "big media" completely own the rights to the works instead of the creators, because 99% of the time that's not true.


Ah wait. Hold on. I’ve just remembered about Performing/Mechanical (playing/copying) rights splits.

You’re actually right. A lot of the time the Publisher will take the whole of the Mechanical right.

But that’s not to say they own EVERYTHING. Cos they don’t. Also, catalogues change hands all the time. So someone somewhere could go and buy the mechanical rights off a publisher and distribute it themselves if they wanted to.


There should be a centrally agreed fair use license (regulated marketplace). No restrictions on copying and no negotiation on price. Works must be derivatives and not 1 for 1 copies. For artistic works this could kick in after 3 (or some other short time frame) months of release and last forever. For other IP this should kick in after 3 (long enough to realise the gains) years. For other IP a provision to change the fair use price in court would be provided. It's not right that private individuals and organisations can steal from the future due to greed. Every innovation is a derivative of what came before. As a society we should embrace and encourage sharing and derivation.


But all these reform schemes assume that copyright expiration is the end goal when it's really there to allow the creator of a work to extract pretty much all the value from their work -- the expiration is really an afterthought.

I think expanding fair use makes sense in a lot of cases but I also think that harping on copyright expiration terms generally miss the point. Copyright expiration should protect against works being abandoned but those are the exceptional cases.

I think my ideal copyright system would be indefinite but you can make a case before a court if you think a work has been abandoned and you want to pick it up. All of these systems that are clearly designed to burden copyright holders and make it harder to maintain copyright are silly.


Copyright expiration IS the end goal. And, at least constitutionally, the goal of copyright was to encourage creation of works, not to extract every last cent. Expiration isn't an afterthought of the process. Without copyright, everything would be in public domain. So public domain is essentially the default. Copyright was created to allow the artist to make some money, for a time, before returning the work to the public domain, so that others can build of it. Giving an entity, forever, to enjoy the Monopoly is just absurd, and unconstitutional. Five years is to short, but 75 or 90 is to long. Based on the fact that most books on Amazon are less than 25 years, I think 25 is a good term length.


I would love to see an explanation of why you think putting the burden of proof on the new creator to prove that their new work does not violate copyright is advantageous to an auto-expiry approach. I can think of thousands of situations where what you propose would stifle innovation. Why is this way better?


> you can make a case before a court if you think a work has been abandoned

That's an absurd amount of additional work to put on the legal system.


It's actually not a bad idea if you tweak it a little bit.

Move it out of the court system and into a computer in the copyright office. You upload a work and claim it's abandoned, they publish the claim and the copyright holder has e.g. six months to dispute the claim or it proves that you're right and the work becomes public domain. No human involvement, simple automatic process.

Then works that have been registered/renewed in the last 14 years (or were created in the last 14 years) can't be claimed to be abandoned, so copyright holders that don't want to have to deal with policing abandonment claims can just register their old works instead.


The current lifetime + 70 years is overkill. Releasing one's works under CC or GFDL is surely good, CC-0/PD is better, but it doesn't always practical/persuasive to everyone/everything. And it requires personal evaluations and actions.

Perhaps we also need a Voluntary Copyright Sunset Movement. It can persuade many people to waive their copyright earlier without author's own actions after its publication:

> Copyright Sunset License

> All Rights Reserved, (C) 2019 John Doe

> An irrevocable, unconditional license is hereby granted: XX years after the initial publication of the first revision, the Work is automatically made available under the terms and conditions of CC-0. See CC-0. (another variation can be CC-BY v4)

It can be applied to the majority of someone's works without major considerations. If you are just writing a random essay or taking a random photo, it's unlikely you still care after, let's say, 20 years. But meanwhile, you may still want to retain your copyright (and possibly, release it under a free/non-commercial/proprietary license before it expires, or upload it to your blog, forget it and do nothing), but no matter what you do, the copyright sunsets automatically some years later, long before the legal validity.

And I think it can be a fairly influential movement and can persuade many authors to join: do you really need/want to lock a piece of your random work for your entire lifetime + 70 years? If the work is special, you may want to do so, but more likely not, can you waive your copyright earlier to benefit the public? If so, use this license to publish your work.

The problem of this movement is, of course, nothing would happen during the first 20-40 years, making the movement be perceived as useless, and difficult to gain support. Meanwhile, the movement would also fail to solve any of the changing landscape of copyright issues developed during these years. Who knows what the world we're living is going to be in 40 years, and there's risk of our efforts becoming irrelevant.

But I think it's still a big positive move. We can also encourage short expiry for things you don't care about, such as blog posts or small programs: 5-10 years may be enough.


An overwhelming majority of "useful" copyrighted works is owned by Big Media. By useful I mean works that provide large value to society, compared to say this comment, which is technically copyrighted, but fairly low value to society. Big Media are the ones who have been influencing lawmakers to extend copyright terms. They are never going to voluntarily give up their own copyrights.


Good point. But "fairy low value" doesn't equal to "completely useless", an example would be the photographs on Flickr, it was the largest collection of photos available under the CC BY license, and at least Wikipedia was one of the largest project being benefited from it. Also, I could publish my work under the Sunset License before I permanently license a copyrighted book/research paper to a Big Publisher, because the license is non-revocable, the license can effectively prevent the publisher from locking it up forever, without some possible objections when using CC-BY or CC-0.


This ideas is good, I think. However, there are some of my opinion:

1. You should be allowed to waive the right to be recognized as the author. Also, if someone uses your stuff in the way that you do not like, then you should not force to remove the picture but are allowed to require to know that you do not endorse the use of it. Also, should still be prohibited to claim that someone else wrote something even though actually you did and they didn't write it.

3. Possibly, copyright could be shorter for practical works than for artistic works. I see other comments disagree about what the length should be. I think twenty years is too long even for artistic works; one possibility (although I am not sure what is best) might be: For artistic works, five years automatic and five years requiring payment. For practical works, three years automatic and three years requiring payment. (But, then, you have to define this properly.)

5. Perhaps the ban on DRM should be, instead of a total ban, a combination of: (a) A prominent warning label is required. (b) Some rules similar to like what the GPL3 has about DRM is required ;for example, maybe any DRM system would be required to make available that the user is able to use the rights that the GPL3 provides for the user (such as availability of source code, Installation Information, can share the corrected version, etc). (c) Requirement that the companies do not try to work together to enforce the DRM.

Also, I think patent should be abolished entirely so that you are not restricted to do some thing just because someone else patented it. (With the possible exception of "design patents", which perhaps should still be allowed to exist, but limited to a lesser duration and only applicable to commercial use, maybe. And it should not apply to screen layouts that do not include graphics.) (Also, any patent explaining an invention would still be allowed to be published, although it would have no legal value; it is simply one kind of archive.)

They also mention, "how should the artists get paid?" I think that, even if it doesn't restrict you from copying it, does not prevent you from selling books.


Our political systems in the free world are very resistant to change. A party can be founded to further an important topic but people demand that they have a broader program and address all kinds of topics.

And then you end up with another copy of some party.


Then, you should allow to have more than one party together, so that if some party is some issues and other party can then make the other issues that they are more knowledgeable about.

(Maybe the result is that there is no single prime minister, but maybe that isn't the result; I don't know.)




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