U.S. Government thinks it might be time to change copyright law.

Over at The Hill comes an excellent and informative opinion piece written by Sandra Aistars, Executive Director at The Copyright Alliance .

In it, she points to the fact the head of the United States Copyright Office is thinking it might be high time to update the U.S. Copyright Law which hasn't changed since Gerald Ford was President. (For the uneducated, that would be 1976.)

Think about that for just a second. In 1976 there were no mobile phones, no mp3 players, no tablets, no real home computers except for the rich and geeky. No wifi.No Napster/Limewire/Megaupload/PirateBay. No cd's. No disks. Etc.

So yeah, it's about freaking time we figured this stuff out considering how much has changed. And good luck with it. Copyright law is broken, and it needs to be tweaked. The duration for example, (70 years under the copyright extension act) is preposterous. So too, the big old gaping hole that doesn't address the digital world.

And the sooner we do it through a proper channel the better. Unfortunately there is no utopia. And the only proper channel we have is the government. Sorry, but I do not believe in The People to make brilliant decisions. After all, The People brought us Google Adsense funded music piracy and Megaupload. In one sense The People have almost obliterated the purpose of creation, all to the tune of millions upon millions of fingertips hitting downloa while a very few get super wealthy. Ethically, everything has been thrown out the window.

More than this, I would also venture to say that psychologically the very notion of culture has been warped. We no longer see music or visual art or the written word as a fully realized valuable piece of creative. Rather, an increasingly vocal group lead by greedy lords of the digital serfdom are demanding all forms of culture be treated as a first draft to be fucked with in some bastardization of an open source model. All for free, of course. I still hold out hope that this damage isn't irrevocable.

The Aistars article is brilliant because it explains clearly and concisely why copyright exists and where the problems that have arisen from the misinterpretation (purposefully or innocently) of the law.

For the tl;dr crowd, read this paragraph:

Those skeptical of copyright protection have expended a lot of energy to redefine its language and revise its history. Calls for lessening copyright protections are far too often accompanied by heated rhetoric. Appealing to emotions may be a great way to drum up signatures for online petitions, but has no place in policy discussions. Finally, it is not hard to find examples of those who propose dramatic changes without understanding the business realities of how creative individuals and industries operate."

I have been on the receiving end of such less than cooler headed arguments for merely suggesting the ethical. Same with Dabitch. And certainly David Lowery and the Trichordist blog has had his fair share of pitchfork wielding angry villagers at his metaphorical door. I have no idea but I suspect East Bay Ray has too, or will be in the near future.

Ad hominem attacks aside, it's very difficult to argue with empirical evidence that copyright infringement is being funded by advertising and advertising platforms.

And yet, Aistars doesn't want to hang her hat completely on the almighty dollar as being the true need for such law. Despite the Freebie Jeebie crowd suggesting the notion that copyright stymies creativity, Aistars argues (correctly) the goal of copyright law is to ensure the "progress of the arts and sciences."

We don't champion government much around these parts. But I can get behind a government entity whose sole purpose is to ensure creativity flourishes by attaching an implied value and duration to a creative work. A value and term limit which, by the way, despite absurd suggestions to the contrary, the holder is allowed to revoke or ignore. So let's put away the fallacy that copyright means a band can't distribute their music for free because they can. And do. All the time. The only difference is copyright allows them that privilege, and punishes the non-creators who try to distribute it without consent.

Yeah, copyright law broken. Yeah the terms are too long. And yeah it's archaic to these digital times. It's definitely time to change it. So let's change it. Let's allow a governing body to govern, as it is their job after all. And let's hope they'll keep the parts that work and ignore the cynical money grubbing fat cats who are calling for us to to throw the baby out with the bathwater so they can keep making more and more money.

Think of it this way: When a fat cat lobbies a government with its brilliant idea, then you know it's not an idea worth keeping.

about the author

kidsleepy CD copywriter with 18 years experience who has worked in many cities including New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care.

Comments (15)

  • AbbaSez's picture
    AbbaSez (not verified)

    Thank you for posting. Important stuff. And btw, if you're a copywriter and your name starts with a "C", why not rip off the © logo and use it as your personal branded logo...for the opening of your reel 'n stuff. Kinda cool to steal the very logo that represents ownership. Oh, the irony.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • kidsleepy's picture

    Funny. I also believe it's perfectly legal, since the © is public domain. But I'm surprised someone hasn't done it already.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • John Merge's picture
    John Merge (not verified)

    It is about time the government updated copyright laws. I completely agree with getting behind a government entity that ensures "creativity flourishes".

    Mar 19, 2013
  • Gene Jones's picture
    Gene Jones (not verified)

    Yes, by all means, let's let the current system linger while we wait for the government to come up with a new system. Should work out great, I mean they came up with what we have now, and that's excellent, right? If the current system is changed in my lifetime, I'll be surprised. If it's changed for the better in my lifetime, I'll probably shoot myself out of shock.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • Darren F's picture
    Darren F (not verified)

    The US copyright term isn't a simple 70 years. In most cases it's the life of the author PLUS 70 years. This was to keep up with most of the rest of the world which extended the term before the US did. It's not likely to get shorter.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • kidsleepy's picture

    @Gene Jones, the government moves slowly, we get that. But every time they try to act quickly, The People get just as pissed. Can anyone say Affordable Healthcare Act?

    @Darren F in that we were influenced by Europe's laws in terms of affixing a duration here, I totally get that. In the interest of not boring the Advertising audience, I was truncating. We're copyright supporters here, but not so versed in the minutiae as to be experts.

    This is not a perfect analogy but in the States, people are starting to get upset at the aptly named death tax: namely, above a certain amount, and your inheritance is taxed. A last giant F.U, if you would. The argument among non-law makers is, we worked hard for that cash and already paid taxes on it, why is the government deciding how much to take from it post-humously so to speak?

    I understand the argument against such a tax when people feel like the government had no hand in earning the inheritance. It's even weirder when a governing body determines ownership or non-ownership of culture they had no hand in creating.

    Bottom line: The system certainly needs to be ironed out. The hope is that the majority will agree upon this belief and the government will do something sooner rather than later. Maybe if we point out how much in taxes they're losing it'll light a fire under their asses.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • Jamie Johnson's picture
    Jamie Johnson (not verified)

    you dont trust the people but you do trust big company money behind goverment elected officals that wanted to pass sopa. thats is what happen with you let goverment complete controll

    Mar 19, 2013
  • Matt H's picture
    Matt H (not verified)

    Copyright does more harm than good. Time to rid the world of the evil it brings.

    Mar 19, 2013
  • FairnessRules's picture
    FairnessRules (not verified)

    Every major study not sponsored by the industry shows that filesharing and free streaming increases sales. If someone listens to a song or watches a movie for free they are more likely to buy it. I don't know what the problem is in understanding this. Record companies pay to have their songs featured on the radio. Filesharers provide this service for free. If you like copyright and making money off of media then you should be happy about filesharing sites getting advertising money. To be fair, companies should pay streaming sites for every listen not demand a fee. To be fair, filesharers should be thanked for keeping culture alive and vibrant, not sued and slandered. Why would anyone try to regulate away sharing? Without sharing humans would be alone in the cold fighting every second just to have food and shelter. You cannot base a business on going against human nature or you will fail in an economy made up of human beings.

    Mar 20, 2013
  • kidsleepy's picture

    The notion that somehow freeloading is keeping culture alive is as ridiculous as my suggesting I am keeping the coffee industry alive by going into Starbucks and stealing their coffee.
    Stop with the emotional non-arguments, please. Put on your simple math hat. If I'm a band, and millions of people download my music for free, it does NOT in any way shape or form contribute to my well being or income. freeloading does not in any way create a larger legion of people willing to buy the album once they've heard it. This is a Walt Disney version of the real world.
    As for your going against human nature line-- how do you explain the years priot to the mid 90's when people were actively paying for culture? How do you ignore that? Seriously, do you have no frame of historical reference beyond ten or fifteen years ago?
    Also please show me these studies that are not sponsored by the music industry purporting to suggest file sharing helps the music industry. I want to see who is funding studies. because is cuts both ways.
    And as for the studies purporting file sharing hurts the industry: Is Musicmetric for instance, and their studies which purports file sharing costs the music industry £500 million funded by someone in the music industry? Please point to me where in the article it says so. Is google purposefully in collusion with industry sponsored bigwigs to change its algorithm? I somehow doubt it. Is Jonathan Taplin, head of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC some Partisan hack when he has proof positive that torrent sites are stealing money from artists?
    I know there is a disconnect between perception and reality, when emotions rule over rational thinking. Between the moral compass of the hive mind and the accepted ethics of the many. But the idea that filesharing sites are generating money to anyone but the owners of such file sharing sites and advertising platforms like google's Adsense, is complete and utter horseshit. My friends in bands, indie bands you might have heard of, cannot pay for health care because of the dip in their sales.
    Give me a break.

    Mar 20, 2013
  • Dabitch's picture

    SOPA is in no way censorship. DNS blocking is already used by ISP's to block things like child pornography. Our privacy has been invaded by silicon vally, and people don't seem to care about that - remember when they sucked up everyones wi-fi as they drove past with the Google-map car? (FCC Probing Google Wi-Fi Spy Scandal). Remember the software of android phones that tracks every keystroke'? We watch as privately owned corporations rally for "freedom", while they catalog our every move.

    Here's a lovely counterpoint from Gavin Polone : Why I am for SOPA

    It strikes me as odd that there is such vocal public outrage when industries export jobs to other countries, where needy people are desperate to raise their standard of living, but not a peep when some foreign website kills American jobs to nobody’s benefit but the owner of the site, like the now imprisoned Kim Dotcom. Well, I guess his Rolls Royce dealer did well, so there is that.

    Mar 20, 2013
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    Here we go again ...

    We will never have copyright reform and a stable marketplace until we can all agree on three basic principles: 1) Anyone profiting from mass distribution of someone's work should obtain that someone's permission or cease and desist if asked, 2) merely accessing someone else's copyrighted work is protected by the First Amendment, because the right to free speech implies the right to hear speech, and 3) for customers, P2P is the digital bastard child of FM radio broadcasts and checking out a CD or DVD, and just as we distinguish between radio listeners and pirate radio broadcasters, and libraries and counterfeiters, we must somehow allow for the same distinction in P2P.

    Attack people for freeloading and you will get nowhere. Pretend getting music for free is new and you will get nowhere. Your customers are smarter than you think.

    Mar 21, 2013
  • Dabitch's picture

    "the right to free speech implies the right to hear speech"... wait, doesn't that (in this day and age) imply a right to a service? You have the right to an attorney and the right to vote, but I think that's where the list (of US constitution rights) ends.

    Mar 21, 2013
  • 157's picture
    157 (not verified)

    I think copyright laws, at least as far as TV shows go, should be more lax. People should be able to legally record and upload TV shows for people on the internet to watch or listen to and they should be able to do all this without the owner's approval. Hell, everyone does it and it's not like the police actually enforce copyright laws as far as TV shows go. If they did, then there would be a lot more people in jail because everyone, at one time or another has either illegally uploaded or watched illegally uploaded TV shows. Sure, some people might say it's wrong, but I think it would be good for business. Think about it. Let's say you have a blog and you decide to record and upload an episode of . Now let's say someone who has never seen the show before comes across your blog and watches the episode you uploaded. Let's say he (or she) liked the episode. What they're going to do now from that point on is tune into every future episode of the show on their TV, thus providing the network (whichever one it may be) with another viewer. Sure, some networks upload their shows' episodes to their website, but then again some networks just upload clips and not full episodes. Also, I know you have Hulu, which is legal, but even Hulu doesn't have full episodes of every show. This would be especially helpful for shows that have lost viewers and are struggling as a result. So, in a way networks are missing out on a great to get more people to watch their shows.

    May 09, 2013
  • Dabitch's picture

    Attracting viewers is obviously of interest to "The Networks", as more viewers = more money. When the views happen on channels where the networks are selling the supporting advertising (other networks like HBO rely on subscribers). If the entire season is found for free online, and the surrounding advertising is collecting money into Kim Dotcom's pocket, well that's just a bit fucked up isn't it?

    May 10, 2013