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Let's improve U.S. copyright law in 2013
29 points by yakiv 1727 days ago | hide | past | web | 15 comments | favorite
On January 23, I'm going to mail four handwritten letters[1]: one to each of my state's senators, one to my district's representative, and one to Barack Obama.

In each letter I'm going to explain that current copyright terms are way longer than necessary for copyright's stated purpose[2], and I'm going to ask for copyright terms to be limited to a maximum of 10 years with no exceptions. Compared to current copyright terms this sounds really short, but think about how long 10 years is---it's maybe still too long. I'm also going to ask that currently active copyright terms all end within 10 years.

If you're a U.S. citizen, I challenge you to do the same (though you can mail fewer people if you want).

By the way, if you're buying stamps, you'll want to buy "forever stamps". You can use them for mailing letters even if the price goes up after you buy them.

[1] http://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper.html

[2] "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 think any discussion of copyright period reform needs data behind it. Specifically, there needs to be a chart showing annual revenue produced by 1 year old works, two year old works, all the way out to works beyond the current limits.

I presume this would show a dramatic drop off which varies by market. It will probably also show that long copyrights only benefit a vanishingly small fraction of content creators.[1]

The problem will be that this data is unavailable to the public or government for most works.

Therefore, the first legislative step needs to be a "Copyright Beneficiary Reporting Act". Any copyright holder which receives more than X ($1000?) in revenue from a work in a calendar year must report the revenue for that work.

We can let that collect data for a few years and then make some informed decisions.

[1] I think by and large these long term popular sellers, particularly in entertainment, should be thought of as lottery winners. The public, for whatever complicated reasons, fell in love with the work. Entertainment content creators are mostly just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. It is the public that chooses what is popular. If, as a content creator you hit the lottery and make a ton of money, great! That is what fuels the industry and provides the content, but you should recognize that the public is a huge part of that success and you aren't entitled to win the lottery continuously forever.

I have expressed my concerns about the state of copyright law to my representatives multiple times over the years; there has been essentially no effect. The MPAA, RIAA, and other copyright lobbying groups have basically bought our politicians when it comes to this, and people who speak out against this state of affairs are basically ignored. Why would the government want to end the nice, cozy relationship it has with the movie industry, when our entertainment makes such an excellent platform for propaganda?

The battle over copyright is going to be ugly -- it was ugly in 16th century England, and it is going to be ugly in 21st century America. We are going to see increasing attempts to prevent people from violating copyrights (which will conveniently undermine other, less convenient rights), an increase in the attempts to indoctrinate children into the "copyrights are a natural property right" way of thinking, and further exploitation of creative works (how dare you compose a song that borrows a tune from another song? If you do not work for us, we won't let you!). We are going to see copyright used as the excuse to establish firewalls, to arrest programmers who dare to write code that is useful to individuals at the expense of corporate profits, to sneak restrictions into computers and unwind the entire PC revolution, etc. The culture of illegal cable will expand to include illegal computers of all kinds -- computers that won't enforce the will of corporate overlords, computers that will allow users to write their own programs without asking permission, computers that won't care about expiration dates on data.

Companies behind MPAA and RIAA are representing a huge part of the US economy. Pirate Party and simillar movements are mostly based in Europe and have marginal influence on the economy of any country. Now if you are the president of the United Stated, whose advices would you trust more?

Well, we can at least try to do something. If we could get millions of Americans to do this (though that seems a little far fetched . . .), it could make a difference. We have to fight back.

If you think 10 years is too short, Facebook, a $57 billion dollar company, did not exist 10 years ago.

What baffles me is that many major artists argue for more copyright. It's like they are drinking the kool-aid of the corporate masters. What they should be doing is negotiating better contracts. Instead, they have a few stars supporting a majority of losers. The losers never make anything, and the stars make orders of magnitude less than they otherwise would. It's nothing to do with copyright law. It's simply a poor business model post internet.

I still vote, and don't mind doing stuff like this, but I'm afraid unless you have a few million dollars to throw at capitol hill your vote doesn't count for much, even all of hacker news combined.

DDoSing D.C.'s mail system might get some attention. What we (read "I") want is for a lot of people to do this.

I don't expect it to work; the only thing I've ever gotten from my representatives in DC are saccharine form letters thanking me for contacting them and extolling the virtues of participatory democracy. I doubt my letters were read by anyone more senior than a second-year intern.

Nevertheless, count me in.

If each congressman got enough letters, we could see some response. I don't know if we can get that many, but we can try . . . Snarfy wrote that "even all of hacker news combined" wouldn't do it; I'll post this on Reddit, too.

Discussion (if any happens) on /r/PoliticalDiscussion: http://www.reddit.com/r/PoliticalDiscussion/comments/15qfi7/...

You do know that any country party to the Berne Convention agreed to a minimum copyright term of 50 years? Good luck convincing Obama he wants to back out of that.

You should probably take a look at this first for ideas:


  Legalized file sharing, shorter protection times for the commercial
  copyright monopoly, free sampling and a ban on DRM.
Sorry, I didn't read the document. Do those lunatics also want to ban SaaS? Because if software is in the cloud you can't easily pirate it.

I strongly believe that such legislation would only complicate my life. With high-speed networks and new protocols it's not that hard to imagine companies like Adobe or Autodesk moving their products almost completely to cloud. You would no longer "own" professional software, you would only rent access to it.

> You would no longer "own" professional software, you would only rent access to it.

That is exactly the current situation. Read the EULA sometime. If they want to keep that model, force them to make it explicit, and stop fooling people into thinking they own what they were sold.

Yes, most EULAs and DRM systems impose restrictions that greatly limit what you are allowed to do with software. If you think this is fooling people then don't buy such software, donate money to Open Source projects or contract Open Source developers directly. Open Source model is great if you want to really own quality software without spending millions on it.

What I fail to see is how legalizing file sharing on massive scale (akin to MegaUpload) and banning DRM technologies would improve consumer rights. The natural response from the market would be to move to the cloud which means even more restrictions and privacy concerns than in the current model.

I agree that there are some reforms needed, but I'm against revolution that this document proposes.

Another idea for you - vote for Pirates :)

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